that feeling I get from the best of libraries

A week or so ago I wrote about the magic of holding a little 3D-printed skull in my hand: a tiny, tangible emissary from the future.

Today an old college friend pointed to a story on human time travelers.

No, really: people of such immense age that they lived through things that you would think lost to living memory. Civil War widows receiving their pensions in the 21st century. A man who saw the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and talked about it — on television. (Go. Watch.)

I find I react in much the same way. And it’s the same way I reacted, studying classics, when I read something like the letters of Cicero, and felt there, across a language and an ocean and two millennia, we were having a conversation. The same way I react to a really good book or an exceptionally good conversation and, perhaps, the single feeling I associate most with the best of libraries: the feeling that a barrier that separates me — from times or places or people — has grown tissue-thin, that light and sound can come across it as it shimmers, that I can put my hand right up to the thing that separates us and something else can touch me back.

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