Friday, July 17, 2009
It is no surprise that there is a Shakespeare library in Stratford-upon-Avon. After all, it is the birthplace and early home of the world's most famous playwright. What is surprising is the struggle that this library faces in order to stay relevant. The Shakespeare Library reminds me of the little library that could. It is small, underfunded, and understaffed, but the people who work there love it and are determined to keep the doors open.
In the middle of town, it is surrounded by a museum, public library, and five Shakespeare sites including the home where he was raised. The town has built itself into a modern day shrine. However, it has not been enough to get the library the power and funding it needs to amass the foremost Shakespeare collection. Larger libraries all over the world with seemingly endless amounts of money have managed to take the bulk of the treasures that this library would covet.
One treasure that they have managed to obtain is one of the three complete copies of Shakespeare's first folio (see picture above). While definitely the star of the collection, they also own the world's only known letter to or from the Bard himself. The other showcase collection is a collection of images from every known Shakespeare production of the last century-much of which can be found on their website.
The library also acts as a town repository and houses all of the town records. If you are looking for anything to do with Stratford-upon-Avon or a resident who once lived there, then this is where you need to be. The library has around 3,000 visitors annually, but their reach goes far beyond that. This little library that could takes over 10,000 email requests and questions per year. The Bard would be happy to know that his spirit lives on in his hometown. In order to make sure that this continues to be the case, please visit their website and learn what you can do to help this library meet its mission.