A Fresher’s Quest to the University Library
Here be dragons
The ominous day had finally arrived. It was time to delve into the heart of the UL.
For a month I had managed to avoid it. I had remained in the safety of my college and faculty libraries, where daylight reached , and many other human beings surrounded me. I thought I had everything I needed.
And then the moment struck. It became increasingly apparent to me that, studying a 12th century text, criticism was scarce; only one library in the U.K. would have what I was searching for.
A copyright library.
The library with access to all books ever written.
The University Library.
It was a fresh and clear October morning when I set off, from the warmth and light of my college library. Having left details of my whereabouts with a few trustworthy friends – should I never emerge again – I packed some essential provisions: a sturdy map, a reliable compass, a small tent, and my Cam card, and trekked away.
The aim of my quest? To locate, suitably, an Arthurian romance, a tale of the Knights of the Round Table, a 12th Century medieval epic: Le Bel Inconnu. In this narrative, a handsome and brave young knight quests through magical and human lands to save his heroine, and break the enchantment placed on her by an evil wizard. (? not sure I actually read properly so could be fake news?)
In this tale, I saw many parallels to my own plight. In this article, you will be subjected to many more such parallels.
Soon I found myself at the foot of the steps to the library door. Vast grey slabs rose as far as the eye could see; thick tall windows glinted, ominously, in the faint Autumn sun. I tried not to think about being trapped inside. And so, summoning my all three pieces of my willpower, I ascended the steps, and entered.
Having navigated the impulsive rhythm of the damn revolving door, I found myself at the Information Desk – possibly my last contact with human kind. A wise, grey-haired soothsayer (a.k.a. ye olde librarian) counselled me to abandon my worldly belongings in a locker, to take a map, and to never tickle a sleeping dragon.
All my goods deep in the bowels of the UL beast, I tentatively ventured up the stairs, in search of a far and distant land – which I had spoken of, in whispers, as The North Wing.
Inside the Land of the Library, all was silent, save for the occasional rustle of paper, or perhaps mischievous elves. Dimly lit figures swayed in and out of the shadows, jousting for books, duelling for desk space.
After many hours of fruitless questing, and quite a few encounters with giants, (postgrads), I finally found the key to my adventure: the stairs. With great haste, I ran up the back staircase, remaining constantly vigilant of any fearsome creatures. Eventually, as dusk descended upon the desks, I rejoiced. I had reached Floor 4: Medieval.
Through many passages and many doorways I stepped. (word order is v important in medieval french literature, please take note of syntax for dramatic effect.) And there it was – across the row from where I was standing – just at the end of the shelf – 'Le Bel Inconnu: Critical Edition'. A streak of golden sunlight beamed down from the heavens; angels sang; many village folk wept at my discovery.
Without a moment to lose, I quickly grabbed the book, and embarked on the arduous journey home. My quest was successful. King Arthur would reward my bravery handsomely at court. My DoS might even acknowledge me.