Last week in the pages of the New Yorker magazine, I read that the Vatican Library had re-opened to the public after a 3-year closure for renovations and enhancements. Even though the re-opening happened last September, it somehow escaped my notice. If you are a subscriber to the magazine, the article, entitled “God’s Librarians: The Vatican Library Enters the 21st Century” is well worth the read (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/01/03/110103fa_fact_mendelsohn).
The essay mentioned the great extent to which this closure provoked anxiety and frustration among scholars needing, really needing to consult the 75,000 manuscripts and 1.6 million volumes in the Library. As a former academic, I can truly appreciate how awful it is being deprived of access to the objects of one’s study. One can lose one’s job if papers aren’t produced, and that cannot happen without access to texts.
The New Yorker essay reminded me that when we closed our doors for the move to CNU in April 2007 and did not re-open to the public until late December of that year, we also caused disappointment and frustration among our patrons. We aren’t the Vatican Library, but we are probably the largest maritime library in the Western Hemisphere and house unique collections. There are scholars who also really, desperately need access to our manuscript, book, map, journal and photograph collections.
God’s Librarians probably do not need to ask for the renewed support of their patrons after such a long and difficult closure. After all, the enhancements mentioned in the article (WiFi throughout the Library, greater security for the collections, better digitization facilities, a safe and modern infrastructure and stabilized building, among others) are well worth the sacrifice. Maritime librarians, however, wish to thank you for your patience and willingness to wait, those 3 years ago, for the good things that have now come about from our move to CNU. We ask for your continued support of us in this fine facility.