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The Doctor Agrees: Libraries Are Cool

on Thu, 11/21/2013 - 00:00

“Books,” the Doctor says upon arrival at a planet-sized library so large that it is simply known as The Library. “People never really stop loving books. Fifty-First Century. By now you’ve got holovids, direct-to-brain downloads, fiction mist. But you need the smell—the smell of books.” The Doctor’s love affair with the physically published works of both fiction and non-fiction alike is not only shared with real-world libraries of the Twenty First Century but apparently reciprocated as well. During the 50th Anniversary of the BBC classic Doctor Who in November 2013, for instance, a number of Pittsburgh area libraries held events to celebrate the Doctor of the series while likewise showcasing the changing role that libraries play within their neighborhoods.

“Over the past few years, libraries have been trying to break out from the ‘warehouse of books’ mentality into a more community-center atmosphere,” Debbie Flinner of the Sewickley Township Public Library explained at the time. “I’d like to think that libraries, if they don’t already, could take a lesson from the Whovian community, offering a way for all people to find a place for them. The library should be a place that encourages and fosters that sort of intergenerational, nonjudgmental, welcoming community that’s been the cornerstone of the Doctor Who legacy. What better place than a library, that does hold so many stories—both written and lived—for us to celebrate a character that holds such history!”

In connection with the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who on Saturday, November 23, 2013, entitled “The Day of the Doctor,” the Sewickley Township Public Library sponsored two special events, starting with a Doctor Who-themed “Family Night” on Friday and a Series Seven marathon viewing party on Saturday. “Family Nights generally take a format of a few stories and center-based activities, including a craft and snack,” Debbie Flinner said of the first event. “This time, instead of the stories, we’ll have a quick introduction to the Doctor and move right into some of the games we have planned. There will be a TARDIS photobooth as well as several ‘New Who’ themed activities, including a Baby Adipose Toss, a ‘Build-Your-Own Dalek’ snack and a craft any Whovian would love.”

After the Family Night on Friday, the Sewickley Township Public Library’s celebration of Doctor Who continued the following morning with a homage to the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. “Saturday is certainly the more low-key of the events, but is designed for all ages,” Flinner added. “There will, of course, be Doctor-inspired snacks available. Can I offer you a Jelly Baby, or would you prefer to sample our dessert-style fish fingers and custard? There will be trivia featured on the walls, but this time it’ll reference the known history of the Doctor going back to that first episode in 1963. We’ll leave the TARDIS photobooth and some of the games out for those who’d like to explore. We’re encouraging cosplay, but it’s not required. I’m still not sure who—or what—I’ll be dressed as, but that’s all part of the fun!”

The Sewickley Township Public Library was not alone with their Doctor Who festivities as another Pittsburgh-area library likewise held a Doctor Who event during the weekend of “The Day of the Doctor” premier. “Our Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Celebration is running from 10am to 4:30pm on Saturday, November 23rd,” Pamela Bodziock of the Monroeville Public Library explained beforehand. “We’ll be featuring a life-sized TARDIS and a life-sized Weeping Angel, plus trivia competitions, games, crafts, snacks, an all-day marathon of new and classic episodes, a costume contest, plenty of prizes—and, most importantly, a showing of ‘The Day of the Doctor’ when it airs at 2:50 p.m. on BBC America.”

“I have an appreciation for a show that’s been so beloved for over 50 years,” Debbie Flinner of the Sewickley Township Public Library said of Doctor Who. “I think it’s great that people from all walks of life can bond over a favorite companion or story arc. I think that Doctor Who, in lasting as long as it has, has created a sense of family, solidarity, and silliness that has bridged gaps as large as age, gender and location. There’s always been those shows and books that feature good versus evil, but with the Doctor, there’s a community that’s formed.”

When trapped in Balmoral Castle and under attack by a werewolf during the Second Series episode “Tooth and Claw,” the Doctor turns to knowledge for a way out of the seemingly dire situation. “You want weapons?” he rhetorically asks his comrades. “We’re in a library. Books! Best weapons in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself.” While that installment of Doctor Who took place in the year 1879, libraries are just as important today as they were then—not only for learning but congregating and coming together as a community as well.

Anthony Letizia

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