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Things found in a library?


I recently began brainstorming about creatures that might live in a magic library with a self contained ecosystem all of its own. But aside from books, bookshelves, tables, chairs, and a few other things, I can't think of what is normally inside a library. ( And, much to my shame, I have not not darkened the door of one in a few years. :( )

What furniture, items, architecture, nicknacks, and so on, would you find in a large library?


I worked for a library for over five years and it was the headquarters for the county library system, so I suppose that qualifies as "large". Now, mind you, every library is different and this is based off my experience.


There's the part that patrons see and then there's the part the staff workers see. Usually, if you look around a library, you'll see doors that are marked as 'staff only'. If you were to go through those doors, you would (at my library) enter a hallway that circles around to the opposite end of that particular floor. Off of that hallway are the various departments and offices.

Departments not only include Circulation and Reference, but also Children's, IT, and Technical Services. This is in the US, now. I don't know what all are in the libraries of other countries or the names for particular departments. The offices for Children's tends to be bursting with craft supplies, bright posters, stuffed animals, and random items that might have made an appearance once during story time or some other activity. Once, I came out of Circulation into the staff hallway and heard this loud banging. Figuring Children's had to be up to something, I walked over and found them playing with a home-made "air cannon". Seriously, you never know what Children's is going to get up to.

IT (Information Technology) is a little self-explanatory. Cubicles and computer equipment. Expect to see at least one or two computers opened up with their guts spilled out over a work table.

Technical Services is where books are processed for use. In my library, that was a large workroom with cubicles. One of the librarians was nearly walled in with all the books she still had to catalogue. There was also a long table on which books were wrapped in their protective plastic covering. There were shelves of those boxes used for DVDs and CDs, as well as plastic coverings for books, filament tape, scissors, and all manner of things. Don't ask me why it's called Tech Services. I asked on my third day there and they didn't know either.

The Reference workroom was also divided into cubicle-like desk areas. There were also file cabinets, long tables, and standard office equipment (printer, copier, fax). There was also this laminating machine that I never saw used and I don't think anyone up there knew how to use. Why it was there is a mystery to me.

The staff part of Circulation was a mad collection of desks, computers, books needing repair, books put on hold for pick up, books getting ready for deletion, and books waiting for shelving or inputting into the system. Books EVERYWHERE. Imagine a bookstore vomiting its contents on the floor and there is Circulation.


If this is the headquarters library, then there will be a section for administration. At my library, that included the director, the secretary, head of IT, payroll, and the library manager. There was also a large conference room. Just think the usual white collar office and you have Admin.

Rooms for Patrons

At our library, we had study rooms, a computer classroom, a large meeting room, and a more fancy room called The Founder's Room. The study rooms could be checked out by anyone and they all had tables, chairs, and a TV with VCR/DVD player. There were two large ones that could hold up to 15 and the other small ones could hold a max of 5 (8 if everyone was very thin). The computer classroom was only ever used for meetings requiring computers, if we had a workshop, or if some idiot overbooked the study rooms and we needed the space. The large meeting room could hold 200 people (or more, I can't remember) and had to be rented with a deposit. The Founder's Room was this really fancy room with a faux fireplace, large paintings of the previous directors, a couch with arm chairs, and a really pretty cherry wood conference table with matching chairs. It was only used for very special events, like retirement parties and fundraisers.

If you go to your local library on a slow day and ask a manager very, very nicely, you might get a tour of the library.


Myth Weaver
First off, what sort of library? What era? A modern library, which increasingly acts as a sort of community center? An ancient medieval library, with tomes chained to the shelves? A library for a wizard or magical school?

That said, I've come across many accounts of bookstores and libraries which boasted their own live in cat. Used bookstore in my neighborhood had two cats.

Local library here has a fair number of nonlocal plants out front; tending them takes a fair amount of time from one of the staff. Possibly your library could have some sort of garden court, complete with a magical tree (Ent?) or some such.

Maybe a animate statue as well, indoors or out.

Local library has sections of the wall with paintings on them. Possibly you could have a few magical paintings - painted creatures coming to life and stepping out of the artwork, or maybe a painting that is an access to a secret part of the library.

A well equipped library will have a room set aside for book repair. One from olden days will have a scriptorium for copying books.

And don't forget the mad librarian, the one whose made it his or hers life's work to hide or alter certain categories' of books.


Thinking back to my stint working at a university library:

Cockroaches, study carrels, elevators/stairwells, tile floors, lost and found, archived magazines, copiers, microfiche readers and film, book carts, trash bins, discard stacks, time clock, various focused collections, display booths, fluorescent lighting, janitorial closets, restrooms, ...

Maybe you could take a tour of a local library, explaining the purpose of the visit?


Myth Weaver
What about dust bunnies?
But not in a good library... especially if they have rare/expensive books... "Dust" is seen as deadly in the eyes of Librarians, as it is often the sign [poo, casings etc.] of weevils, silverfish, mites and the rest... that are eating the books.
Here's another thing: this is a magical library, in fact you've given it its own ecosystem. So, does it do anything besides simply warehouse books and help people find them? --Which isn't the whole of what our libraries do either, of course.

Does your world allow for magical maps or other scrying tools that show or record things in the world? If it does, what people are in there watching them: scholars, soldiers, merchants? Does the library keep them out by being secret, or barring everyone but certain scholars from it? Or is that not an issue because most lords and merchants have some of these devices themselves?

Do these books relate to casting spells? Then how nearby are the practice grounds for trying them out, whether it's a shooting gallery, a garden, or a scriptorum?

Knowledge is part of a process, especially if it's magical. Maybe this library is meant to be separate from that and hold pure information for whatever use-- but if it isn't, thinking a bit about how the library's set to flow between these and reading can make it a more dynamic place.


My local library is approximately twice the size of my living room. It is essentially a building with bookshelves and a desk and chair or two. :( (And a coffee maker, of course.)

First off, what sort of library? What era? A modern library, which increasingly acts as a sort of community center? An ancient medieval library, with tomes chained to the shelves? A library for a wizard or magical school?

At the moment it is roughly based on late medieval or Roman/Grecian. I hadn't entirely nailed down any specifics for eras. I just wanted it big and stately, sort of like the Royal Library of Alexandria. It is, of course, magical. With a lot of magic books, all carefully sorted to keep them from fighting each other (the magic books tend to have personalities based on their authors and subjects). But it also has non-magical books. It is (in-universe) lauded as the largest collection of knowledge in the world.

It isn't part of the school/university, but it is adjacent to it.

I have it so the space in the library to be a bit warped (due to some books written by beings that are essentially gods). So it stretches far back into a bizarre wilderness. The main, 'mundane' library is separated from the wilderness by a barricade guarded by heavily armed librarians, but they cant stop all of the creatures from wandering through, so they usually don't bother with the harmless ones. Meaning you get some odd creatures bumming around in the library; such as a pest called a Kerning Worm, which eats the spaces between the letters in magic books. Or Sum's Babbler, a songbird which preys on the Kerning Worm and roosts inside books. And so on.

Further into the wilderness, the ecosystem is self sufficient, and loosely based on marine life. The furthest in is a realm where the aforementioned books (written by deities) wage war on each other with armies of minions.

The wilderness is a good place to find certain materials used in magic, so wizards venture into it occasionally, or mercenaries looking to sell to the wizards. Also people occasionally make pilgrimages into the deepest realm to their deities' tome (aided by a handy portal to skip the most dangerous spots in the wilderness).

Essentially, the whole thing is set up like a Möbius Strip, with the Library and the Principalities (the deepest part) sharing the same spot, just on different sides.

What about dust bunnies?

They're everywhere in my world. Being a general nuisance. They're skittish and easily scared, which is a problem because they explode into a cloud of dust when scared. And some variants of bunnies have highly flammable dust. :D
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Libraries also have the obvious benefit of being ad hoc museums in many cases. You can have a lot of magical artifacts and what not be on display or hidden in forgotten basements.


toujours gai, archie
Thing's found in a library? Never. He's got everything he needs in the Baxter Building.
(there, now I feel better)


I've seen enough Anime to know that in a given library you're likely to find an ancient text that upon opening and/or reading you will be teleported into another world of high strangeness with or without your little sister.


toujours gai, archie
I'd like to see this in a library; might even use it myself somewhere.

Every book is magically tied to its proper place. You can pick up the book, carry it to a convenient seat or desk, though the further you try to go the more it resists. When you are done with the book, you can close it or tap it or maybe say a word, and that magical tie ferries the book back to its proper place. When browsing the stacks, don't forget to duck!

A variation would be, there are reading stands. You go to one and state the book you want. It appears on the stand. When done, it disappears. No photocopying.
Libraries are important to write about, I write about them often.
Novels, short stories, maps of the city or fantasy land can be found there.
Among the people shopping there themselves, there might be scribes, noble men and noble women.
Or perhaps simple merchants who are looking for books about prices and wares.


A variation would be, there are reading stands. You go to one and state the book you want. It appears on the stand. When done it dissapears.

How a time traveler from the distant past would describe a modern computer with internet connection.

Joe McM

Might there be a magical being who can help a person find a book, research a topic, identify a document in which a specific phrase is used? Dare I say if, Google type being.


Might there be a magical being who can help a person find a book, research a topic, identify a document in which a specific phrase is used? Dare I say if, Google type being.

What would a Google look like?

I'm thinking a gargoyle in a flowery mumu with glasses.