Sunday, October 8, 2017

AN AMAZING LIBRARY -- by Jane Kelley



This was a library. It was built to honor the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Ceisus Polemaenus two thousand years ago. It housed 12,000 scrolls and the body of Polemaenus, who was buried beneath its floor. 

Last May, we visited this library in the ancient city of Ephesus, near Selcuk, Turkey. The building had been destroyed by an earthquake and attacked by Goths -- the actual ones, not the wannabes who dress in black. Archaeologists were able to restore some of the beautiful facade. You can still see four statues of women each representing wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and virtue. Here's a close up of the marble Sophia with her namesake, our daughter.


As a book lover, I was thrilled that ancient civilizations had created such a spectacular place to honor learning. 

Then I heard a guide say that women would not have been allowed in the library. Neither would most children--just a few of the so-called "important" sons. In those days, very few people could read and write. Education was not a right. It was a rare privilege. 

So I thought of another amazing library. The library at the Brooklyn New School and Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies lacks a fancy facade. It doesn't have statues of wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and virtue. It has librarians, teachers, and students to embody these attributes. And believe me, they do. 

Whenever I visit (which I do as often as they'll let me) I'm amazed by the questions, the analysis, the creative thinking of the students. I'm even more amazed when I remember that this is a public school.  Its students are chosen by lottery, because many more kids want to go there than could fit in the classrooms. Where does this wonderful wisdom come from? There are many sources, but I believe one of the main ones is this library. 


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