Legends from "The Library" by Genevieve Cogman
Legends from‘the Library’ - the Hidden Repository
The Library in my novels is an inter-dimensional organization, full of books from different alternate worlds. And like any long-established institution, it has its secrets. Some of these are publicly acknowledged. For example, ‘The full horrifying details won’t be revealed until you’ve been promoted.’ But the very existence of other secrets is denied – which may be a very good thing.
Let me tell you about just one of these secrets. Every once in a while, a junior Librarian comes up with a subversive theory. It goes like this. The Library acquires books and sometimes this is because they are a threat to their world of origin. But what if they are so perilous that they threaten the Library itself? Perhaps they might contain knowledge too dangerous even for Librarian eyes. Or maybe they threaten the magical integrity of the Library itself. But more pragmatically, what happens to those books? If they exist. . .
Few Librarians would sanction destroying books (the very idea!), so the next step usually involves speculation that dangerous volumes are hidden within the Library. Probably behind triple-locked heavy doors made of adamantium. (Never mind that adamantium doesn’t actually exist, it’s the thought that counts.) The doors would probably be sealed with esoteric pentagrams, somehow stamped with the names of nameless gods. (Librarians have vivid imaginations. It must be all that reading.)
And taking this thought experiment to a logical conclusion, if these hidden stores of forbidden books exist, then quite a few Librarians would really, really like to read them.
Older Librarians treat this type of theory with bored disinterest. They’ve heard it before a hundred times. They’re always ready to point logical flaws. Such as how could books be dangerous to a Library - especially this Library? Answers such as ‘Just because we don’t know how they could be dangerous doesn’t mean they aren’t,’ result in extra language practice for the wayward student.
A couple of hundred years ago, there was a junior Librarian, Zal by name. He’d only recently achieved his Library tattoo and was the latest proponent of this dangerous book horde theory. He'd noticed that many of the older Librarians used exactly the same turn of phrase when asked about it. He claimed every single Librarian over a hundred years old had said: ‘Don’t be ridiculous, of course there’s no such collection within these walls.’
When this was brought to their attention, senior Librarians insisted that Zal’s findings must be the result of a statistical anomaly. Or that he was misremembering what was said. Or maybe both explanations applied. Zal himself was coincidentally assigned his first mission in the field shortly afterwards, and lived to the age of sixty before dying in the line of duty. (For the record, he was eaten by rabid wolves while being hunted across country by some revenge-hungry Fae. He’d stolen a book from them and the Fae are notoriously poor losers.)
Since then, nobody has been able to replicate his results. The general conclusion is that Zal was mistaken, or that his findings were a coincidence, or both. There is another explanation, believed by more conspiracy-minded junior Librarians. Perhaps someone – or something – is being more careful nowadays.
And however hard they look, nobody’s found any hidden repositories of dangerous books.
Genevieve Cogman is the author of The Invisible Library and The Masked City, published by Pan Macmillan. The Masked City was published last month and both books feature the daring adventures of Irene, Librarian spy.