The Library of Babel, “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges
In Borges’s classic story, the entire universe is a library, a infinite labyrinth, which contains all books — that is, every possible ordering of letters and symbols, so that one full book of gibberish might differ from another only in the placement of a single comma. “Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me,” Borges’s narrator muses at the story’s end, “but I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.” Sigh.
Sunnydale High Library, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
At the other end of the cultural spectrum (but then again, maybe not really), sits the Sunnydale High Library, squarely on top of a Hellmouth. Don’t let that scare you away, though! This place has every book you’ll ever need on vampires, spirits, demons and beyond, and happens to be staffed by a very winsome librarian. There’s also a book cage full of weapons, just in case.
Lucien’s Library, Sandman, Neil Gaiman
In the center of The Dreaming, in Dream’s Castle, is Lucien’s library, which contains every book that anyone has ever dreamed of writing — but has never written. Here, you can read anything, regardless of whether it’s written in a language you can understand. Beware, though, that if any of those dreamers turn to writers, the book in Lucien’s library will burst into flame.
Hogwarts Library, Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
But of course. Any library with a Dragon section is a library we want to visit. Just keep out of the Restricted Section, if you know what’s good for you.
The Library, Doctor Who
A planet-sized library containing every book ever written? Yes, please. The Library was commissioned by Felman Lux for his dying daughter Charlotte, who loved books more than anything. Then he put her mind into the library’s hard drive, so she could read forever. And also save some people.
The Jedi Temple Library
Though it exists mostly in Star Wars spin-off novels, we couldn’t help but include this high-tech nexus of all Jedi knowledge. We’d be especially interested in getting into the section restricted to members of the Jedi High Council.
The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Everyone who is initiated to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, an enormous, crumbling library of books no one remembers, is allowed to choose only one volume, which he then must protect for the rest of his life. Seems like a simple task, but you never know who might want to burn your book.
Unseen University Library, Discworld series, Terry Pratchett
Much like the Hogwarts Library, the Unseen University’s library is chiefly exciting for its shelves upon shelves of magical volumes. Oh, and also for its Librarian, who happens to be an orangutan. Sure, he was once a man, but found that being an orangutan was pretty useful for a librarian. He is pledged to enforce the three rules: 1. Silence. 2. Books must be returned no later than the last date shown. 3. Do not meddle with the nature of causality. Obviously, the second rule is most important.
The monastery library, The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
We’ll never get tired of the library-as-maze metaphor: it’s just so satisfying on both metaphorical and literal levels. Eco’s secret, labyrinthine library, though set in the real world of a 14th century monastery, is based on Borges’s Library of Babel — after all, its blind librarian is called Jorge from Burgos. “It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring,” Eco writes, “an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treausre of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.”
The Beast’s Library, Beauty and the Beast
Look, whatever else you say about him, the Beast knows how to win a girl’s heart — by presenting her with hundreds and hundreds of books, of course, displayed in this Disney-gorgeous personal library. Gaston has probably never read a book.