“A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life,”— Norman Cousins, author

The second month of the year has the distinction of being the shortest month and perhaps the gloomiest month weather-wise; it’s not what one expects from a month made for lovers. When romance is mentioned, of course Valentine’s Day comes to mind. Nevertheless, all of February also is designated Library Lovers’ Month.  

Considering the modern day emphasis on mass media, computerized databases and electronic access to, well everything, some folks view libraries as a thing of the past. In a manner of speaking, they aren’t far wrong.

Books and therefore libraries evolved from the oral tradition, a process whereby a dentist repeatedly performs painful and costly procedures in your mouth until he has paid for his new Mercedes—no, wait, wrong oral tradition. The oral tradition was early man’s way of memorizing ideas and stories to pass knowledge from one generation to the next.

As time went on there was more and more to remember. For example, early man was frequently distracted by the latest in flint tools at Cave Depot and consequently couldn’t recall what early woman told him to pick up for dinner. Thus, the cuneiform “honey-do list” was developed. But because it was inscribed on clay tablets in hard-to-decipher script, it was difficult to read and awkward to carry.

There is evidence libraries existed as long ago as the third millennium B.C., when Sumerians of Mesopotamia recorded daily activities, political and social issues and philosophy on clay tablets they stored in temples.

A few centuries later in the ancient city of Nineveh, King Ashurbanipal was looking for a good clay tablet to read after a hard day conquering Persia. He became obsessed with literature and sent scribes throughout the kingdom to collect and copy clay books of astrology, history, literature, law, science and religion. He studied, collated and filed them using a pre-Dewey Decimal system and stored them in his palace. The tablets were arranged by subject and size and marked on the spine with a publisher’s imprint. Ashurbanipal’s royal library of 100,000 clay books was the world’s first organized library.

Final Word…Love was in the air when I went to the University of Chicago to obtain a degree in library science. I learned to speak Dewey Decimal and one fateful February day I met my spouse-to-be, the Binmeister. A year or so later I got my MLS on the same day as my Mrs.

As a librarian I also learned it’s hard to live down the dour image of “Marian the librarian,” who wants absolute quiet and enacts harsh penalties and fines for lost books.

A fine is a small penalty compared to the “Curse Against Book Stealers” described in the monastery of San Pedro at Barcelona, Spain. It begins: “For him that stealth a book from this library let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him.”

Therefore, in honor of Library Lovers’ Month, I suggest you take your favorite librarian to lunch, bring flowers and candy. At the very least say “thanks”—but don’t forget to return the books.