Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bookish Tuesday: Literary Libraries

by Jeanette O'Hagan @jeanetteohagan

What book-dragon doesn't love a library?

Libraries are heavenly places, crammed full of books to get in lost in. I'm a frequent visitor to our local library and have found many treasures there - including books by Karen Kingsbury, Dee Hendersen, Stephen Lawhead, Ted Dekker, Rosanne Hawke and Adele Jones.  And I have many wonderful memories as a child raiding the school library, the Nkana Mines club library, the local council library or any library that would let me through its doors for my next favourite read.

It recently occurred to me that I've included a few different libraries in my stories. It got me thinking about the fantastic fictional libraries other writers include in their books.

There are certainly some great libraries in what might be deemed secular fiction -- Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose revolves around the labyrinthine abbey library at an Italian monastery, some heart-warming scenes occurred between Edward and the Dashwood girls in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, the Hogwarts library looms large in J K Rowling's Harry Potter novels, while in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 future hope resides in the living libraries,  and then there's the Beast's library that captured Belle's heart in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Here is a list of some more, if you want to check them out.

Libraries in Christian fiction

And what about Christian fiction? Is it devoid of libraries? It took a while and the help of a few friends to track them down, but they are there.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

My imagination conjures up visions of Bilbo Baggins the hobbit spending his last days in the library at Rivendell full of ancient books and scrolls. Though apparently, this scene is not in the book -J R R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings -  Gandalf does search through the archives of Gondor to confirm his theories about the One Ring.

From memory, in Stephen Lawhead's Bright Empire series, the society of ley travellers keep a depository of unique and strange books in the house at Damascus, including a mysterious book which provides a clue to the disastrous shrinking universe and strange, out-of-time events.

And there is the faerie library in George MacDonald's Fantasies. Anados, the hero in this allegorical tale, discovers that the books pull the reader into their pages, to experience the events with all five senses, a truly immersive experience.

In C S LewisThe Great Divorce, departed authors congregate "about public libraries to see if anyone’s still reading their books." A somewhat depressing thought. Though the people in the Great Divorce are those who have failed to move on and accept in full the gift of God's grace.

Christian author Steve Rzasa is a librarian and a library makes an appearance in For Us Humans, a sci-fi where a human cop and an alien investigator need to team up to track down a missing artifact and prevent dire, world-threatening consequences, while dialoging about Jesus.

Romance, Historical and Biblical Fiction

And it's not just speculative fiction that contain delightful libraries.

Bodie Thoene’s Jerusalem Scrolls  The Zion Legacy Series No 4 references a library of ancient scrolls under Jerusalem.

And in sync with the times, Carolyn Miller's regency romances often feature libraries. Manor house libraries in The Eluisive Miss Ellison and The Captivating Lady Charlotte, and borrowing libraries in The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey and Winning Miss Winthrop while both The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey and Carolyn's lastest release, A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh, have some scenes where the heroine meets significant people at the (public) libraries of Regency England.

Carolyn Miller is clearly an author after my own heart.

Paula Vince, in her post Stories with Libraries and Librarians, mentions at lease three other occurrences of libraries in Christian Fiction.

Elizabeth Camden's Beyond All Dreams features a a research librarian named Anna, who archives maps, and in the process, discovers an explosive and dangerous secret.

In Lynn Austin's Wonderland Creek, a shy librarian is pressured to become a mobile librarian to a hillbilly community, with some dangerous and life-changing results.

And in Julie Klasson's The Ladies of Ivy Hill,  Miss Rachel Ashcroft inherits her father's books even though she doesn't like reading, so she sets up a small lending library with wonderful consequences.

Libraries in Nardva

And there there are my fictional libraries.

The Palace Library in Tarka

The Great Library of the Golden Place features in Akrad's Children. A large area that takes almost one wing and two levels with a mezzanine floor and a domed skylight over the reading tables, it is the hero, Dinnis' favourite refuge. Dinnis curries favour with the cranky librarian, Ralton, so he can spend more time there and earn a little metal. Prince Mannok on the other hand, caused havoc inside the library as a young boy, and would rather be anywhere else as a young man who loves riding and hunting.

In my short story Lakwi's Lament, young Lakwi loves books and wishes she was allowed in the library, but her father has banned girls from entering. Her big brother, Prince Rokkan gives her books and the ideas and stories she drinks in help her when she does find herself in deep trouble. A story about a girl, a library and a puppy (among other things).

The Library of Alexgaia

In a short sci-fi 'space opera' story, Rendezvous at Alexgaia, Dana and Avonis have to get into the hidden library at Alexgaia, run by the technomonks, to find a clue for a code. Getting in is one thing, getting out is another thing altogether as they dodge lethal autobots among the library stacks. 

And in a short story A Rookie Mistake, time traveller, Sandria is in a private library looking for precious artifacts to save from the 1666 Fire of London when her mission goes badly wrong - or maybe right, depending on how you look at it. (As Time Goes By: Mixed Blessings. Breath of Fresh Air Press.)

Both stories have been republished in Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories.

And my latest library creation?

The Seven-Tiered library of Sillantis

In my latest release, Shadow Crystals, the fourth and penultimate novella in the Under the Mountain series, the heroes spend some of their time shifting through the scrolls and codices of the Library in Siltanis, search for the clue to breaking the bond of a soul-stone. Of course, when the rebel ebed invade the city, things become rather fraught and dangerous, but those days in the library are not wasted.

Do you love spending time in a library? And what fictional libraries would you long to visit? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks to Paula Vince, Susan Bruce, Adam Collings and Mazzy Adams for some great suggestions to add to the list :)


And as a bonus, I'm giving away to one commenter an e-book from the Under the Mountain series (a choice of either Heart of the Mountain, Blood Crystal, Stone of the Sea or Shadow Crystals).


Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. Many involve courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic. Others, are set in Nardva’s future and include space stations, plasma rifles, bio-tech, and/or cyborgs.

She has published numerous short stories, poems, four novellas in the Under the Mountain series, her debut novel, Akrad's Children and Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.

Her latest release is Shadow Crystals, the penultimate novella in the Under the Mountain series with Caverns of the Deep due in April/May.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Find her on:

Facebook |Jeanette O'Hagan Writes | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest


  1. Intriguing! Now my mind is whirling. Where can I put a library scene in my current story? Thanks Jeanette.

    1. Love it, Diane. Looking forward to reading more library scenes :)

  2. Great article. I can’t get the image of those needy author ghosts in The Great Divorce out of my head. Just as well we get to go to heaven or the libraries would be overcrowded by us authors making a spectre of ourselves (sorry, pun inhibition mechanism has failed today :D).

    1. LOL. Yes Sue, I felt the same. Such a haunting even harrowing picture (this pun thing is catching).

  3. Hi Jenny. Good on you for finding all those libraries. I'm sure I've read a lot of Christian romance-suspense where people must have gone to libraries to find info, but can't remember them off the top of my head, I guess because the libraries didn't play a key part. I can think of a lot more secular books and children's books with more prominent libraries. Good on you for including so many libraries in your stories. And of course if we could extend it to movies and TV, who could resist the 'Silence in the Library' episode from Dr Who? Oh wait ... maybe the shadows wouldn't be such a good thing :)

    1. Hi Nola

      You are right, libraries would be a common go-to for searching for information mysteries, thriller and suspense books. Which reminds me of the library in Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which was memorable - especially the old archives room that used to be a car garage.

      And I did think of Slience in the Library. A planet sized library with a unique brain. But yes, the shadows there are deadly and tend to upstage the wonders of that library. 'Who turned the lights out.' I won't say anything more in relation to Caverns of the Deep.

    2. Not every shadow but any shadow...

  4. P.S. Forgot to say please don;t include me in the draw, as I think I already have the e-books.

    1. Wow, that's wonderful, Nola. Even the latest release, Shadow Crystals? Thank you :)

    2. Um not sure if I have Shadow Crystals yet. I'd better get cracking :)

  5. Hi Jenny, this post has made me want to dash off to the library. What a fantastic lot of evidence of the value of great libraries in stories. But I'm sure one person you wouldn't find hanging around earthly libraries anymore is C.S. Lewis :D

    1. Thanks, Paula. I love that you want to head off to the library. And I enjoyed your post on the same theme. Too right, Jack (C.S.) Lewis wouldn't be hanging around earthly libraries and has moved 'further up and further in' to better things.

  6. Thanks for a really interesting post! I think it’s inevitable that if an author enjoys reading that will be reflected in their stories. Personally, I’d find it very hard to relate to someone who doesn’t read - or enjoy libraries!

    1. I agree Carolyn, though I've learnt to accept that not everyone likes books, as inconceivable as that seems. I love that libraries are promiment in your stories :)

  7. Oh, yes, I *love* libraries--especially ones in England that give lots of space to dusty, ancient tomes. I am very much looking forward to visiting the Chawton House Library that specializes in women's fiction of 18th and 19th centuries. It featured in my Jane Austen Encounter: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Encounter-Elizabeth-Richard-Literary-Suspense-ebook/dp/B07NWNDMP6/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1551291872&sr=1-2&keywords=Jane+Austen+Encounter

    1. That sounds delightful, Donna. I had a peek at the Bodleian Library when I was in Oxford. I'll have to put Chawton House Library on my list if I ever get back to England.