Some Memorable Fictional Libraries and Their Special Keepers
The Sunnydale High Library in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It’s National Library Week, and even fictional characters need a place to check out books from time to time. Though it’s not always the case, fictional libraries tend to be magical; after all, they’re created by writers, and writers know the power of the written word. If they’re going to invent a repository for knowledge, then at the very least, it should be an interesting one.
Of course, in the manner of mice, cookies, and milk, when a writer creates an unusual library, he or she is going to invent an unusual librarian to go along with it. Here are a few memorable made-up archives and their equally memorable keepers:
Matilda & Mrs. Phelps in Matilda: The Musical
The Local Public Library & Mrs. Phelps (Matilda): Roald Dahl’s classic opens by introducing the protagonist, Matilda, as a Reader, which perhaps makes Mrs. Phelps the most important librarian of them all – in taking a four-year-old’s request for a ‘grown-up’ book at the local library seriously, she sets the rest of the story into motion. Mrs. Phelps is the first adult in young Matilda’s life to encourage her to learn, and the first to feed her hunger for knowledge.
The magic here is in the moment when Mrs. Phelps presents Matilda with a library card and tells her she can start taking books home.
The Great Library & Cheshire Cat (Thursday Next): In the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, characters can travel in and out of books, interacting with public domain heroes and villains – as long as an intrepid explorer has already found a way in. In Lost in a Good Book Thursday enters the Great Library for the first time, which contains every book ever written, every book that ever will be written, “and a few others beside.”
The Library is the starting point for all Prose Resource Operatives, or members of Jurisfiction, and is overseen by the ‘quite mad’ Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland (technically, the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat due to adjusted county boundaries). He can give you the publication date, ranking, and up-to-the second reading figures for every book in the library – as long as you have tuna-flavored Moggalicious to trade.
Sunnydale High School library & Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): This is not your typical high school library. For one thing, it has an impressive collection of texts on demons, vampires, and magic, most of which are in Latin. It also comes with a stuffy middle-aged British librarian who actually works for a shadowy council of Watchers and kicks ass on a regular basis.
And it’s a good thing no one ever needs to check out the books because the library is usually occupied by the Slayer and her Scooby gang getting their research or weapons training on. (During the second and third seasons, it occasionally doubles as werewolf holding.) Sadly, the library was sacrificed in the third season finale in order to destroy a giant demon snake. Fortunately, the books (and the librarian) were evacuated before the place blew up.
Hogwarts Library & Madam Pince (Harry Potter): J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series features the incredible Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and what magical place of learning would be complete without a magical library? The library – and particularly its Restricted Section – play an important role in many of the early books, providing Harry and his friends with the crucial piece of information necessary to save the day – from information on Nicolas Flamel and the Philosopher’s Stone to the recipe for Polyjuice Potion.
Madam Pince may not be the friendliest or most helpful librarian, but at least she doesn’t get in the way of learning!
Unseen University Library & The Librarian (Discworld): Much like in Harry Potter, Ankh-Morpork’s school for learning wizardry, Unseen University, would be incomplete without its library. The most unusual feature of this highly magical building (which considering its MC Escher-like proportions is saying something) is its librarian, who was turned into an orangutan due to a magical accident, and resists all attempts to be turned back into a man.
As a senior librarian with the ability to traverse the L-space – the extradimensional space that connects all libraries – he enforces three very strict rules: 1) Silence 2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown and 3) Do not meddle with the nature of causality. There is a fourth, unofficial rule of this library which is: do not refer to the Librarian as a ‘monkey.’
The Library & CAL (Doctor Who): A planet-sized book repository as featured on Doctor Who, the Library was built in the 50th century and contains paper copies of every book ever written, but is shut down due to an infestation and sudden evacuation.
When the Doctor visits a hundred years later, he discovers the core of the planet, a drive large enough to contain back-ups of every book, also holds the mind of a little girl, CAL – Charlotte Ann Lux, whose family built the library and gave the dying child a place to play. CAL ‘saved’ the planet’s inhabitants to her hard drive when they were under attack by the Vashta Nerada, microscopic carnivores from the trees that had been pulped for paper. A programming error caused some problems in returning them, but once the Doctor was finished, the physical library was shut down for good, and everyone in the virtual world was able to live happily ever after.