When an old Carnegie library is closed, its seven librarians refuse to abandon their home. They lock the doors, and the forest grows around them like a cloak, sheltering them from the rest of the world. But their lives are changed when a book of fairy tales is found in the Book Drop, very, very overdue. The payment? A first-born child.
In the House of the Seven Librarians is a timeless tale for anyone who spent a childhood in the refuge of the public library, or who believes that a world full of books is a magical place.
In a time of library closures, of books being thrown out by the crateful, a paean to the grand public edifices of yesteryear feels rather appropriate; and Klages’ novella about the magic of libraries is just such…
In the House of the Seven Librarians is a beautiful story of exploration, discovery, books, and the silent magic of libraries. The seven librarians, with personalities defined by the appropriate personality for their job, can seem less like people and more like emanations out of L-Space of the ur-librarians, the Children’s Librarian especially; the magically appearing books and supplies, generated by the library, are wonderful, especially their selection – no flashes in the pan, so no Dan Brown, but Rowling obviously makes an appearance. At times, the novella feels like it’s taking its cues from Sleeping Beauty and the fairies failing to look after Snow; they’re trying their best and doing it from good motives, but really don’t understand children.
The magic of books is really the focus here, and how books can help one grow. In the House of the Seven Librarians is an imagined childhood, but one based on reality; based on the child who consumes books as if they were the force of life itself, on the omnivorous and voracious reader. Discovering the world through books is, of course, a time-honoured tradition, one which exploded in the Victorian era with the end of the Grand Tour and its replacement with reading memoirs of the tours of others, Nathaniel Hawthorne being a prime purveyor of such. E. M. Forster, in The Machine Stops, of course took this to its logical conclusion; but Klages is also writing about the idea of vicarious experiences and their comparative value to “real”, that is, lived, experiences. It’s an interesting piece of work, in that regard, given the love it has for the vicarious but also the final conclusion In the House of the Seven Librarians comes to.
This is only a short work, but it’s a beautiful, intelligent, and rather sweet one. In the House of the Seven Librarians is a love-letter to libraries, and anyone devaluing them should be sent a copy.