Category Archives: Library Feature

Taking the Oath: Visiting the Bodleian Library


This summer, I had the good fortune to take a day trip into Oxford and visit a good friend. After cappuccinos, a good stroll through a street market, and lunch, we did what your average bibliophiles would do while in Oxford.

We went to the Bodleian Library. My friend and I wanted to see the latest exhibition, Magical Books. This little exhibit is a fantasy reader’s dream.

Magical Books is an exhibit of original art and manuscripts of some of the most beloved fantasy texts of the past century. Narnia, Middle Earth, and Camelot are all well represented. The featured writers are informally known as the “Oxford School,” and include Susan Cooper and Philip Pullman as well as J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

For me, seeing Tolkien’s original artwork from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was thrilling. I have loved these books since I first read them as a child, and the old Ballantine paperbacks that I owned used Tolkien’s art for the covers. The originals were familiar, yet fresh, and I am so glad I was able to see them.

Alan Gardiner is another featured author in Magical Books. American readers like me are not as familiar with his work, but his  books are well-loved by British children. My husband Nick has lovingly saved a few favorites of Gardiner’s from his childhood. Perhaps they will finally make it onto my reading list this year. One of the most lovingly created artifacts in Magical Books is Gardiner’s handiwork, a calligraphic rendering of the inscription that legend has was put on King Arthur’s tomb:

Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus

Here lies Arthur, king once, and king to be

Magical Books is open until October 27, 2013.

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A New Literary Pilgrimage – Québec City

Bury Your Dead book coverAs a Biblio-filia, I have the geeky habit of making literary pilgrimages. Some of these trips turn out better than others, I admit. My fall trip to Tarrytown, New York with another booky friend to visit the haunts of Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Super! Dragging my husband to Haworth, Yorkshire to see the home of the Brontes? Well, let’s just say we had a good long walk on the moor.

There’s a new literary pilgrimage that I am putting on my to-do list this year. Tours Voir Quebec ( in Québec City has put together a walking tour that features the settings in the novel Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny. Penny writes the critically acclaimed Inspector Gamache series, a mystery series that starts with the novel Still Life, published in 2007. The series has a total of eight books, and the ninth will be published this summer.

Most of Penny’s mysteries have been set in the fictional village of Three Pines, an Anglophone village in the Canadian province of Québec. Other books have been located in other fictional locations – a remote monastery in her most recent novel, The Beautiful Mystery, and a spectacular, old fashioned resort hotel in A Rule Against Murder. The novel Bury Your Dead is the only novel, to date, that is set in a real place.


Chateau Frontenac

And the real place is Québec City, which Penny describes in attractive, comforting detail. Inspector Gamache is recuperating from an injury at the home of an old friend and colleague in Québec City. As part of his recuperation, Gamache indulges his passion for historical research in the Québec Literary and Historical Society, a fantastic library established to preserve the history of the English people of Québec. Gamache and his friend sip cafe au lait at cafes, Gamache takes walks with his dog in the narrow streets of Québec City, and through the entire novel we see the facade of the Chateau Frontenac, Québec City’s landmark hotel.

I have started pricing train tickets, and hotels in Quebec City… hopefully I will make it there soon.

If you are a fan of the mystery genre, I highly recommend Penny’s novels. Her characters are memorably written and her descriptions of settings are exceptionally vivid and emotionally evocative. The main detective character, Armand Gamache, is a gentle, honorable man with a fascinating backstory. Penny’s website is also one of the best author websites I have ever explored. You can find out the series order, learn how to pronounce the French in the books, and get publishing information. Visit Louise Penny’s website at:

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First Library Feature! I visit the Fernandina Beach Branch Library

The name I chose for this blog, Bibio-filia, means “daughter of the library” in Latin. I really wanted Bibliophile, or Bibliophilia, but in these more crowded blogger days, you take what you can get. I’ve really warmed up to my second choice name, and decided to feature this passion for bricks and mortar libraries by profiling the libraries I explore.

Fernandina Beach Branch Library

Fernandina Beach Branch Library

Last week was Spring Break for my sons and their schools, and our family headed for Florida. Our Florida beach of choice was in northern Florida, on Amelia Island, a vacation spot my husband had discovered years ago on a business conference. On Amelia, we found the lovely, very picturesque and well preserved Victorian town of Fernandina Beach. In the center of Fernandina Beach  – where a library should be, in my opinion – was the unassuming Fernandina Beach Branch library, a library of the Nassau County, Florida Public Library System.

Community information at the entrance of the library

Community information at the entrance of the library

The library was one large, open room, well lit with a high ceiling, with sections clearly labeled and easy to spot. The shelves were a bit too close to each other in the adult non-fiction section, which was a bit claustrophobic feeling. But this is a minor thing, I’d much rather a library packed things in a little tight rather than sacrifice volumes. There were plenty of catalog pcs, and internet browsing pcs, and a ton of local information and reference right at the entrance of the library. And racks of paperbacks! It’s been a long time since I saw these spinning racks.

The children’s section had a small play/reading area that was in use while I was there, as were most collections. Plenty of patrons were browsing fiction, reading magazines,  and using the pcs. I made sure that the library had one of my favorite volumes, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and found they had a fairly new edition with illustrations by Robert Ingpen, published in 2009. The illustrations are just astounding, dreamy and colorful, with some new interpretations of the familiar scenes. I’m going to have to find myself a copy!

When I arrived, a librarian was assisting a patron applying for a library card. When she finished, I asked permission to take some photos of the library for my blog, which was very graciously given after she checked with the head librarian. The librarian who assisted me was very friendly, answering my questions about the library.

Amela Island Book Festival shelf at the Fernandina Beach library

Amela Island Book Festival shelf at the Fernandina Beach library

I was intrigued by the shelf that featured books from the Amelia Island Book Festival. A mix of bestsellers, niche, genre, and children’s books were on this shelf. The Book Festival appears to be a separate organization from the library system, but nicely supported by the library. I wish our visit had coincided with the Festival. I would have enjoyed attending some of the Festival events, and browsing the authors’ and publishers’ booths. If you are interested in the featured titles at the book fair, the festival maintains a page on Facebook that seems to list most of this year’s titles.

The Nassau County Library system supports their libraries with a web site ( that is both attractive and functional, and makes me realize just how inadequate the web presence of my home library system is. I love seeing the staff book choices on the site, and the quick links to local history and genealogy, plus calendars of events and programming. The links to downloadable ebooks and audiobooks are clear – something so simple that my library can’t seem to get sorted out.

All in all, a very serviceable library with a friendly staff and an obvious enthusiasm for local interest and culture.

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