Yesterday was our library orientation, which involves a surprising amount of ceremony. While studying at Oxford we have access to the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest and most comprehensive research libraries in Europe. The structure is vast, including many buildings both above and underground. Also it looks like this:
(And the underground part is super creepy and makes me fear for my life, but that’s besides the point)
In order to get a library card we have to take a pledge (both verbal and written) that we will behave with proper decorum which includes explicitly that we will not “bring into the library or kindle therein any fire or flame.”
I hadn’t planned on kindling any fires to begin with, but taking the pledge certainly instills a sense of tradition. The library closes early, and used to close as soon as the sun set because scholars being up at all hours studying by candle light was a tremendous fire hazard. Taking a pledge that dates back to the candle-lit studying time period serves as a sobering reminder of the great value of the texts around us, and the academic giants who have gone before us. Also fire safety.