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Through the Wardrobe

Molly Kane, Head of Teen Services and Emerging Technologies

Well, I arrived back safely from my trip! I had a wonderful time – the weather cooperated, the sites were interesting and engaging, and the restaurants served us some absolutely delicious food! As promised, we stopped at a number of libraries.

Some of them were large, some were incredibly tiny, but all were clearly dedicated to their users and patrons. The Spring Green Community Library was probably my favorite of the public libraries because even though they serve a community of only 1600 people, their calendar is filled with exciting programs for people of all ages! (I’m more than little sad that I won’t be there to participate in the Fall topiary class!)

Clockwise from left: Wade Center at Wheaton College, Memorial Library at UW at Madison, Manitowoc WI Public Library, Mason County District Library at Ludington, MI, and Spring Green, WI Community Library

Clockwise from left: Wade Center at Wheaton College, Memorial Library at UW at Madison, Manitowoc WI Public Library, Mason County District Library at Ludington, MI, and Spring Green, WI Community Library

What I truly loved, though, about this trip were all of the little surprises that happened along the way. When we were in Chicago, we stayed with friends who have a toddler named Lily. We had planned to take Lily to one of Chicago’s many children’s museums, but what we didn’t realize was that all of the children’s museums close during the week after Labor Day for deep cleaning and sanitizing! As we discussed what we would do instead, our friend Ben (who is in publishing) suggested that we visit the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.

“You can visit the Wardrobe and the Desks.”

When we asked what Wardrobe and what Desks he was talking about, he told us that the Wade Center houses a collection of letters, ephemera, and first editions of British authors Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. It also has the writing desks of Tolkien and Lewis and, maybe most importantly (to me at least!) C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe.

We were a little worried about taking Lily with us (sixteen month old toddlers don’t really appreciate the importance of literary furniture) but when we walked in, the staff couldn’t have been kinder or more welcoming. They encouraged us to take a close look at everything including Sayers’ eye glasses and Barfield’s handsome black and red chess set. Lily was especially smitten with a large oil painting of Aslan the Lion from the Narnia Chronicles. I enjoyed being able to touch the top of the desk where Tolkien penned The Hobbit. And my husband couldn’t stop looking at the wardrobe.

I was also lucky enough to be able to tour the Wade Center’s research collection which included first American and British editions of all of the books ever published by all of the Wade authors. There was also a large collection of their works in other languages, critical works analyzing the authors and their books’ importance, and binders filled with original letters written by the authors. What I appreciated most about the research collection was that they didn’t discriminate about what they include. Books about the movie adaptations of the Narnia Chronicles and The Lord of the Rings shared the same prominence on the shelves as a first editions of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The librarian at the Wade Center asked if I wanted to handle any of the first editions or original letters, but I declined. For now. I expect that some day I’ll go back without a toddler in tow and spend a lot of time in their reading room!

Clockwise from left: The Wardrobe, the entrance to the Wade Center, Tolkien's desk, and C.S. Lewis at his desk.

Clockwise from left: The Wardrobe, the entrance to the Wade Center, Tolkien’s desk, and C.S. Lewis at his desk.

As much fun as the trip was, it’s great to be back at UDPL! Fall programming is underway and even though we don’t something as famous as C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe, we do have a good book, a great movie, or an exciting program to fit everyone’s needs!