This news article from CNN caught my attention because I really love libraries.

 “Nov 7, 2016 - The world's oldest library gets a 21st century face lift. Al-Qarawiyyin library in Fez, Morocco, is the world's oldest, continuously running library. It dates back to 859 AD.  …. The library was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy Tunisian merchant (she also founded the Qarawiyyin Mosque and Qarawiyyin University).”  

The oldest library to which I could find a reference in Wikipedia was in Ebla, Syria about 2500 B.C.  There was that most famous library in Alexandria, Egypt established approximately 300 BC, contained from 40,000 to 400,000 items and was burned down somewhere between 48 BC and 642 AD according to various accounts. 

When I was a child, and finally learned to read, the library became my most favorite place in the world.  It was walking distance from our home and I wore a path in the concrete going back and forth. The children’s section was U- shaped and had a granite ledge about 8” off the floor. During the infinitely hot summers, this ledge was always cool and my favorite place to sit. My literary tastes were simple. I started at the bottom right and worked my way up to the top left, at which point I needed written permission from my mother to get books from the adult section.

Fast-forward to parenthood.  Libraries were on our regular list of stops. We even compared the various libraries that were available to us in the city. One was best for lunch in the rooftop cafeteria and playing in the fountain outside.  Another had the best kid’s story hours and children’s collection. Then there was the one closest to home that was great for last minute homework assignments.

Fast-forward again to significant travel. The first place we looked for in any domestic or foreign place was the local public library.  It was the best place to find directions and restrooms and to meet some local folk. Later on, it was also the best place to find free internet access to check e-mail. 

The buildings ranged from magnificent architectural wonders, to small storefronts and modest converted homes. One of them was in an old octagonal one-room schoolhouse.  It could accommodate about six people at a time with the librarian squeezed into one of the corners. The new one in San Francisco is a beautiful modern structure with no books in sight.  

 Libraries are hardly an endangered species. Libraries and librarians seem to accommodate change better than anything does.  Archives on micro-fiche, newspapers, magazines, and real books live alongside computers, chess classes, film festivals, tax-forms, citizenship applications, audio books, and ...  

We have a lovely little library at our CCRC.  It is open 24/7 and kept in excellent condition by our resident volunteers. In addition to its collection of fiction (many mysteries) and non-fiction (many histories), there is a much appreciated large print section and a CCTV for the visually impaired. We even have a shelf for published books written by residents. 

So read on, have fun, and don’t forget:– That library in Morocco was established by a woman!

Betty Ago


Betty is a real person who resides in one of our Brookdale entry fee communities. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Brookdale Senior Living.

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