In The Stacks with Hans Weyandt: Scattered Ecstasy
The beginning of any new adventure is the usual mix of excitement and nerves. I have tried, over the past few weeks, to not imagine what this would be like or what I might see. Because I simply couldn’t imagine the possibilities. So when I first walked through the old wooden arch into the room that houses some of the Special Collections I went a bit fuzzy. There is awe, of course. So many other descriptors could fit: I was bewildered, enthralled, transfixed, spellbound, and bewitched. Yes, all of that. And due to our overuse or misuse of so many of these words, they still seem to come a bit short of the things zooming through my head. Like a kid in a candy store is appropriate, and again, so dull in its current meaning.
Entering the Hennepin County Library’s Special Collections (located at the downtown Minneapolis branch) is not unlike stepping into a secret society or land. There is something about it that feels almost forbidden. Yet that is very much not the case. I had no special badge to be there. I own a Hennepin library card. As part of my residency here I will be allowed to access materials available to all of us.
The Minneapolis History Collection alone is worth a visit. Maps, posters and books both rare and old are neatly shelved everywhere and one can get access to much more by making simple requests. That is what I will be doing and writing about. I am beyond thrilled to have this chance and embarrassed that I have never done it on my own.
Bailey Diers, one of the librarians on staff, pulled some stuff to show us a bit of the range of the collection. Some of the treasures included: an Icelandic bible from 1612, a copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream autographed by illustrator Arthur Rackham, several fine press books from local artists and other books that had been transitioned from the general collection into this one because of their age. I kept flipping through the Shakespeare—laughing at his unique humor and staring at the art. I kept thinking, “Stop looking at this. There is so much more to see.”
Bailey pulled a record card for my home address that showed when all original permits had been pulled. It showed that our house was built in 1926, one year earlier than we had been told when we bought it. She remarked, “Most people are given incorrect facts about their homes.”
My friend Berit, who was along for the ride, and I kept grinning at each other maniacally. Can you believe this? As we left she said, “This is beyond whatever you could think about it.”
Indeed it is. I’m not yet certain how I will limit my time here and try to put something together that is beyond scattered ecstasy because that is a real danger. There is so much to see and I’m ready to dive into all of it.
Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Hans has worked at four independent bookstores in St. Paul and Minneapolis over the past 15 years. He is the former co-owner of Micawber’s Books and the editor of “Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores” published by Coffee House Press. He currently works at Sea Salt Eatery, Moon Palace Books and Big Bell Ice Cream.
Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans.. Visit our Facebook event page for more info.