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'Cathedrals of the Mind': 15 Quotes About Libraries

As Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s 2001 novel The Shadow of the Wind opens, the main character, Daniel, explores a secret library with his bookseller father. “This place is a mystery. A sanctuary,” Daniel’s father explains. “Every book, every volume you see, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and lived it and dreamed with it.”

The quiet majesty of libraries has long captivated people of all ages and backgrounds — so much knowledge in one place, in so many forms, is bound to inspire awe. It’s only fitting we’re often asked to keep reverent silence among the library stacks. But a library is more than a collection of bookshelves: It often serves as a hub for connection and community. A library can be a place to read, yes, but also a place to learn, to explore, to socialize. These 15 quotes — from acclaimed authors and ancient philosophers alike — speak to the particular pull of these essential repositories of knowledge and wonder.

Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.
— Neil Gaiman

My library was dukedom large enough.
— William Shakespeare

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.
— Ray Bradbury

Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay.
— Zadie Smith

I am what libraries and librarians have made me.
— Heraclitus

Libraries are where it all begins.
— Rita Dove, poet

Browsing for books with a mouse and screen is not nearly as joyful an act as wandering the stacks and getting lost in the labyrinthine corridors of knowledge. The best libraries are places of imagination, education and community.
— Sam Weller, journalist

The library helps you to see, not only that you are not alone, but that you're not really any different from everyone else.
— Maya Angelou

Libraries matter. Their solid presence at the heart of our towns sends the proud signal that everyone — whoever they are, whatever their educational background, whatever their age or their needs — is welcome.
— Kate Mosse, author

A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered.
— E.B. White

A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.
― Andrew Carnegie

One of the most subversive institutions in the United States is the public library, where citizens can find a fount of knowledge for personal growth.
— bell hooks

There's something nice about the way you're never too old to go into [a library], but it still makes you feel the way it did when you were small.
— Julia Walton, author

Libraries always remind me that there are good things in this world.
— Lauren Ward, actress

A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft, and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.
― Caitlin Moran, journalist

Photo credit: elenaleonova/ iStock

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About the Author
Paola Bennet
Paola Bennet is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She writes a fortnightly newsletter that treasures the mundane, called Small Histories. Find her on Instagram @paolafbennet.
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