On Libraries_Summary, Analysis and Question Answers | Grade 12: English_Section II: Literature | Unit 3 Essays

on libraries summary analysis and question answers grade 12 section ii literature unit 3 essays
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On-Libraries-Summary-Analysis-and-Question-Answers-Grade-12-English-Section-2-Literature-Unit-3-Essays-Oliver-Sacks
Grade 12: English

Section Two: Literature

Unit 3: Essays

Lesson 1. 'On Libraries' by Oliver Sacks

Introduction

Oliver Sacks was born in 1933 in London and was educated at the Queen’s College, Oxford. He completed his medical training at San Francisco’s Mount Zion Hospital and at UCLA before moving to New York, where he soon encountered the patients whom he would write about in his book Awakenings. Sacks was a neurologist and an author whose case studies of patients with unusual disorders became best-sellers. His focus on patients with particularly rare or dramatic problems made his work popular with writers in other forms, and his case studies were adapted into several different movies and operas. Dr. Sacks spent almost fifty years working as a neurologist and wrote a number of books--including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Hallucinations--about the strange neurological predicaments and conditions of his patients. The New York Times referred to him as "the poet laureate of medicine," and he received many awards, including honors from ‘The Guggenheim Foundation,’ The National Science Foundation, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The Royal College of Physicians. His memoir, On the Move, was published shortly before his death in August 2015. 

“On Libraries” is written in praise of intellectual freedom, community work, and the ecstasy of serendipitous (happening by chance in an interesting or pleasant way) discovery. Among the titans of mind and spirit shaped and saved by libraries was the great neurologist, author, and voracious (avid/keen) reader.

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Summary of the essay "On Libraries" by Oliver Sacks.

The essayist says that when he was a child, his favourite room at home was the library, a large oak-paneled room with all four walls covered by bookcases—and a solid table for writing and studying in the middle. It was here that his father had his special library. His mother had her favourite books in a separate bookcase in the lounge. Medical books were kept in a special locked cabinet in his parents’ surgery (office/clinic). For the essayist, the oak-paneled library was the quietest and most beautiful room in the house and he learned to read early, at three or four, and books, and the library, are among his first memories.

On the whole, he disliked school, sitting in class, receiving instruction; information seemed to go in one ear and out by the other. He could not be passive—he had to be active, learn for himself, learn what he wanted, and in the way which suited him best. He was not a good pupil, but he was a good learner, and in Willesden Library—and all the libraries that came later—he roamed the shelves and stacks, had the freedom to select whatever he wanted, to follow paths which fascinated him, to become himself. At the library he felt free—free to look at the thousands, tens of thousands, of books; free to roam and to enjoy the special atmosphere and the quiet companionship of other readers, all, like himself, on quests of their own.

As he got older, his reading was increasingly biased towards the sciences, especially astronomy and chemistry. St. Paul’s School, where he went when he was twelve, had an excellent general library, the Walker Library, which was particularly heavy in history and politics. When he went to university, he had access to Oxford’s two great university libraries, the Radcliffe Science Library and the Bodleian, a wonderful general library that could trace itself back to 1602. It was in the Bodleian that he stumbled upon the now-obscure and forgotten works of Theodore Hook, a man greatly admired in the early nineteenth century for his wit and his genius for theatrical and musical improvisation (he was said to have composed more than five hundred operas on the spot). He became so fascinated by Hook that he decided to write a sort of biography or “case-history” of him. But the library he most loved at Oxford was their own library at the Queen’s College. It was in the vaults (rooms having arched roof) of the Queen’s College that he really gained a sense of history, and of his own language.

He first came to New York City in 1965, and at that time he had a horrid, pokey little apartment in which there were almost no surfaces to read or write on. So he longed for spaciousness. Fortunately, the library at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he worked, had this in abundance. He would sit at a large table to read or write for a while, and then wander around the shelves and stacks.

The essayist opines that in the library we may be reading our own books, absorb in our own worlds, and yet there prevail a sense of community, even intimacy. While meeting people in a library, handling and sharing books with them, we develop a kind of camaraderie (friendship and trust) among us.

But a shift was occurring by the 1990s. He would continue to visit the library frequently, sitting at a table with a mountain of books in front of him, but students increasingly ignored the bookshelves, accessing what they needed with their computers. Few of them went to the shelves anymore. The books, so far as they were concerned, were unnecessary. And since the majority of users were no longer using the books themselves, the college decided, ultimately, to dispose of them.
He had no idea that this was happening—not only in the AECOM library but in college and public libraries all over the country. He was horrified when he visited the library a couple of months ago and found the shelves, once overflowing, sparsely occupied. Over the last few years, most of the books, it seems, have been thrown out, with remarkably little objection from anyone. 

He felt that a murder, a crime had been committed—the destruction of centuries of knowledge. Seeing his distress, a librarian reassured him that everything “of worth” had been digitized. But he does not use a computer, and he is deeply saddened by the loss of books, even bound periodicals, for there is something irreplaceable about a physical book: its look, its smell, its heft. He thought of how the library once cherished “old” books, had a special room for old and rare books; and how in 1967, searching through the stacks, he had found an 1873 book, Edward Liveing’s Megrim, which inspired him to write his own first book.

Key points of the essay 'On Libraries':

⇲ The essay “On Libraries” is written in praise of intellectual freedom, community work, and the ecstasy of serendipitous (happening by chance in an interesting or pleasant way) discovery.

⇲ It is about the importance of libraries in order to shape and nurture the mind of an individual.

⇲ It is about the significance of reading habit to arouse interest in acquiring knowledge.

⇲ It is about the role of libraries to motivate and inspire the young learners.

⇲ It shows how libraries can open our mind to explore the area of our interest.

⇲ It says how books can kindle our writing habit to become a great writer.

⇲ It also hints the shift from library to online resources and the author’s worry for this situation.

⇲ This change is felt as destruction of centuries of knowledge by Oliver Sacks.

⇲ The essayist claims that a library is a right place for real education. 

⇲ For Sacks, there is something irreplaceable about a physical book.

Question Answers of the essay "On Libraries" by Oliver Sacks.

Exercises

Understanding the text:

Answer the following questions.

a. Where could the author be found when he was late for lunch or dinner?

Answer: Whenever he was late for lunch or dinner he could be found, completely absorbed by a book, in the library.

b. What are his first memories?

Answer: The books and his library in which he learned to read early at three or four, are among his first memories.

c. Why did he dislike school?

Answer: He disliked school because he could not want to be passive. He wanted to be active, learn for himself, learn what he wanted, and in the way which suited him best. And for that the libraries were the best place for intellectual freedom.

d. What did he feel about at the library?

Answer: At the library he felt free—free to look at the thousands, tens of thousands, of books; free to roam and to enjoy the special atmosphere and the quiet companionship of other readers, all, like himself, on quests of their own.

e. Why was he so biased about sciences especially astronomy and chemistry?

Answer: As he got older, his reading was increasingly biased towards the sciences, especially astronomy and chemistry because he was inclined to these subjects at St. Paul’s School, where he went when he was twelve, and had a kind of hunger for astronomy and chemistry.

f. Why did he become so fascinated by Hook?

Answer: He was fascinated by the works of Theodore Hook, a man greatly admired in the early nineteenth century for his wit and his genius for theatrical and musical improvisation, in the Bodleian, a wonderful general library that could trace itself back to 1602.

g. Describe library at the Queen’s College.

Answer: The library the essayist most loved at Oxford was the library at the Queen’s College. The magnificent library building itself had been designed by Christopher Wren, and beneath this, in an underground maze of heating pipes and shelves, were the vast subterranean holdings of the library. It was in the vaults of the Queen’s College that he really gained a sense of history, and of his own language.

h. Why did the students ignore the bookshelves in the 1990s?

Answer: The students ignored the bookshelves in the 1990s because of the shift towards computers and digital resources.

i. Why was he horrified when he visited the library a couple of months ago? 

Answer: He was horrified when he visited the library a couple of months ago because he found the shelves, once overflowing, sparsely occupied. Over the last few years, most of the books, it seemed, had been thrown out, with remarkably little objection from anyone. He felt that a murder, a crime had been committed—the destruction of centuries of knowledge.

Reference to the context (On Libraries):

a. The author says, “I was not a good pupil, but I was a good listener.” Justify it with the textual evidences.

Answer: On the whole, the author disliked school, sitting in class, receiving instruction; information seemed to go in one ear and out by the other. He could not be passive—He had to be active, learn for himself, learn what he wanted, and in the way which suited him best. So he roamed the shelves and stacks of the libraries, had the freedom to select whatever he wanted, to follow paths which fascinated him, just to become himself. At the library he would feel free—free to look at the thousands, tens of thousands, of books; free to roam and to enjoy the special atmosphere and the quiet companionship of other readers, all, like himself, on quests of their own. Therefore, he said that he was not a good pupil, but was a good listener who explored different libraries to gain knowledge for his own academic excellence.

b. A proverb says, "Nothing is pleasanter than exploring a library." Does this proverb apply in the essay? Explain.

Answer: The given proverb, "Nothing is pleasanter than exploring a library" is quite appropriate for the essay “On Libraries”. On the whole, the author disliked school, sitting in class, receiving instruction; information seemed to go in one ear and out by the other. He could not be passive—He had to be active, learn for himself, learn what he wanted, and in the way which suited him best. So he roamed the shelves and stacks of the libraries, had the freedom to select whatever he wanted, to follow paths which fascinated him, just to become himself. At the library he would feel free—free to look at the thousands, tens of thousands, of books; free to roam and to enjoy the special atmosphere and the quiet companionship of other readers, all, like himself, on quests of their own. Therefore, he said that he was not a good pupil, but was a good listener who explored different libraries to gain knowledge for his own academic excellence. Whatever he gained in his life is only because of his habit of reading books in the libraries.

c. Are there any other services that you would like to see added to the library? 

Answer: Unlike the traditional library, it would be better if we add computers, internet access, e-books, and other relevant information and communication technologies to boost our learning. If you have any innovative ideas, please include those in your answer.

Reference beyond the text (On Libraries):

a. Write an essay on Libraries and its uses for students.

Answer:

Libraries and its Uses for students.

[alert type=alert_outline alert_info]“If all the crowns of Europe were placed at my disposal on condition that I should abandon my books and studies, I should spun the crowns away and stand by the books.” — Eenelon.[/alert]

[alert type=alert_outline alert_info]“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured upon purpose for a life beyond.” — Milton.[/alert]

A library is the heart and soul of an educational institution. A college or a school is judged from its library. Indeed, buildings alone do not make a school. A library is nothing but a collection of books, magazines, papers and other reading resources. Books contain knowledge and a library contains books. A library is the temple of knowledge and a boon to the people. It is the place where knowledge is preserved.

A library forms a very important part of an educational institution. A college library provides the students with means for utilizing leisurely hours. A library widens the knowledge of the students with new ideas and new thoughts. Every library has a reading room attached to it. It subscribes to many dailies and magazines and journals. Readers read papers which present varying points of view.

There are many uses of libraries. A library spreads knowledge. The poor people, particularly poor students who cannot afford to purchase books, can make the best use of a library. They can borrow books and gather knowledge. Even rich men cannot have all the books and they also have to depend on the library.

Secondly, the library inspires the students to develop a habit of reading books. The reading room provides an atmosphere where everyone wants to study the books. A reader remains in touch with the new discoveries, inventions and day-to-day matters of the world. The newspapers keep a reader in touch with what is happening in the world around him. 

Thirdly, a library not only spreads knowledge but also preserves it. We can know about the past civilization and culture from the books which are kept in a library. Preservation of knowledge is essential for the progress of the country. If the books are not preserved every generation will have to work from the very beginning. Thus a library does very useful service. It gives to the scholars all the knowledge of the past.

Fourthly, a library increases our knowledge and widens our outlook. It revels new facts new experience of men and nations, new wonders of this vast and varied world. We get an opportunity of sitting in the company of the master minds of the old and the mighty brains of the present day world and of knowing their view-points on various subjects. Knowledge is both a power as well as a joy. A library, therefore, gives us a real satisfaction and pleasure. Robert Southey; a learned poet and scholar who spent most of his time in the company of books, wrote:

[alert type=alert_outline alert_info]
“My never failing friends are they
With who I converse day by day;
With them I take delight in weal
And seek relief in woe.”[/alert]

Thus a library, which is a store-house of knowledge is useful to professionals, general readers and research students. No research is possible without a good library. Carlyle said that a true university of our days is the collection of books. Libraries contain the essence of our civilization and culture and hence they should be maintained in the best possible manner.

b. Do you have any public library in your locality? If so, do the people in your community use it? Give a couple of examples.

Answer: Yes, we have a public library in our locality. Of course, the people in our community use it. (Please go through the answer of task ‘a’, reference beyond the text for relevant information and hints for your answer.)

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