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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer

A Library Shared

"In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his or her library has burned. When I first heard the phrase, I didn't understand it, but over time I came to realize it was perfect. Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by our experiences and emotions; each individual's consciousness is a collection of memories we've cataloged and stored inside us, a private library of a life lived. It is something that no one else can entirely share, one that burns down and disappears when we die. But if you can take something from that internal collection and share it-with one person or with the larger world, on the page or in a story recited-it takes on a life of its own." From The Library Book by Susan Orlean.

As I read Orlean's book, I thought about both my experiences in libraries and how books, plays, and reading in general have contributed to and transformed my life.

One of the memories that I cataloged from many years ago was from when I lived in a small upstairs studio behind a home in Berkeley. I belonged to the International Visitor's Association. Occasionally, I would host guests and one night two young men from South Korea came to my home for dinner. Afterward, I took them to the UC Berkeley campus for a walk. Inside the Doe Library, the main library on campus, we entered the large, elegant reading room and my guests took chairs at a long table. After a moment of awed silence, they said, "One day we will be back as students, and study in this library." I don't know if they ever did become students at Berkeley, but I suspect they did.

I have been reading a lot lately, and listening to podcasts and music, watching You Tube videos, and Hamilton! My friends and family have been great sources for material to enjoy and digest.

In that spirit, I share a few that have most challenged and enlightened me.

Be well.


Below are links to a podcast, talk, and an article.


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