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On Libraries || Oliver Sacks || Compulsory English Grade 12



On Libraries


Oliver Sacks

  • Born on July 9, 1933, in London and died on August 30, 2015
  • A medical doctor, neurologist, educated at Queen's College, Oxford,
  • Got medical training at San Francisco, Mount Zion Hospital, and at UCLA
  • He wrote his book Awakenings, a book about patients
  • His case studies on patients with unusual disorders became best sellers
  • He focused on rare or dramatic problems of patients
  • The New York Times entitled his “Poet Laureate of Medicine”
  • His books are:


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat



On the Move- a memoir

  • Received awards from:

The Guggenheim Foundation

The National Science Foundation

The American Academy of Arts and Letters

The Royal College of Physicians




This short essay is posthumously published under the title “Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales”, a collection of essays, in which Sack recalls his childhood in England. He examines the passions of his life, praises intellectual freedom, and his love of libraries. Oliver Sacks was grown up with an oak panelled library at his home inherited by his father, a Hebrew Scholar and a lover of Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), a Norwegian playwright. The library was full of Henrik Ibsen's plays, poems of his father's generation and Adventure and History Books belonging to his brothers. He read the Jungle Book an English short-story writer Rudyard Kipling, an English short-story writer. He liked the adventure of Mowgli, the fictional character of that book. 


His mother was also a lover of books. She had collected literature books by Emily Dickens (an American Poet), Anthony Trollope (an English novelist), George Bernard Shaw (an Irish playwright), Rudyard Kipling, William Shakespeare (an English dramatist), John Milton (an English poet) and poetry books which she got as school prizes. There were also medical books in a special cabinet of his parents' surgery. Along with the most beautiful library, he had a little lab, where he spent hours absorbed in books even forgetting his lunch or dinner. The library and books were his first memory since he was three or four years old. 


Willesden Public Library at Willesden Green, the UK, was the place where he spent the happiest hours of his grown-up years. He got his real education there. As an active reader and habituated at self-learning, he didn't like passive reading in formal schools. He was a good learner in libraries and a lover of reading any book of his choice with the companionship of other readers. He started reading astronomy and chemistry when he was grown up. The Walker Library at St. Paul's School didn't have chemistry books so he managed to visit the library of the Science Museum with the help of his schoolmaster and learnt chemistry books there. 


He visited Radcliffe Science Library and the Bodleian when he went to university. He read Theodore Hook and decided to write his biography of him. He collected materials from British Museum Library and wrote about him in Bodleian. The library as the Queen's College, Oxford was the most loving library to him. He read ancient books such as Gesner's Historiae Animalium (1551), Agassiz's books, Charles Darwin, Sir Thomas Browne, Jonathan Swift, and 17th and 18th-century literature of Samuel Johnson, David Hume, Alexander Pope, and John Dryden. 



He went to New York City in 1965, and he lived in a little apartment there. It was very difficult to read and write in the apartment; however, he managed to write some of his book Migraine. He got abundance place at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he felt easy to read and write. He met a friend who was also searching for the same old book, Volumes of Brain from 1890. He made a good friendship of reading camaraderie, sharing knowledge. 


He continued visiting different libraries, sat at a table with mountains of books. During the 1990s what he found was, the students were ignoring bookshelves accessing their computers for information. The majority of students were not using books so the college decided to dispose of them. That thing happened in the AECOM Library and in other libraries in different countries. Most of the books had been thrown out. This was like a murder or a crime to him. It was the destruction of the knowledge of centuries. He was saddened by the loss of books however the valuable books were digitalized. Digital books could not inspire and provide the actual delight. Some books are irreplaceable. In the 1960s most of the libraries used to have special rooms for old books. Megrim (1873) by Edward Liveing, was the book that inspired him to begin his writing career. 


Understanding the Text:

Answer the following questions.

a. Where could the author be found when he was late for lunch or dinner?

Ans:- The author could be found in a little lab along with the oak-panelled library that belonged to his father when he was late for lunch or dinner. 


b. What are his first memories?

Ans:- The beautiful oak panel library and books were the first memory of the writer. 


c. Why did he dislike school?

Ans:- The author didn't like school because he had to listen to the teachers passively obeying their instructions. The author liked to learn himself in libraries being free to choose books of his own choice. 


d. What did he feel about at the library?

Ans:- At the library he felt free to look out thousands of books, to roam around and to enjoy the special atmosphere and the quiet companionship of other readers all like him in the same quest. 


e. Why was he so biased about science especially astronomy and chemistry?

Ans:- He was so biased about science especially astronomy and chemistry because science was his study of interest. Any library could provide books on various subjects and faculties, and to read all of them is not possible. We must focus our study on a specific subject to get a wide range of knowledge on that subject so the writer, to get specific knowledge, focused himself in astronomy and science.


f. Why did he become so fascinated by Hook?

Ans:- The writer became so fascinated by Theodore Hook because he was greatly admired in the 19th century for his wit and his genius for theatrical and musical improvisation. He was said to have composed more than 500 operas on the spot.  


g. Describe the library at the Queen's College

Ans:- The Queen's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford, England. It has a magnificent library building which was designed by Christopher Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. Beneath the library building, there is the vast subterranean holding of the library. 


h. Why did the students ignore the bookshelves in the 1990s?

Ans:- The students ignored the bookshelves in the 1990s because they have access to computerized books. 


i. Why was he horrified when he visited the library a couple of months ago?

Ans:- He was horrified when he visited the library a couple of months ago because most of the shelves were sparsely occupied. Most of the books were had been thrown out or digitalized.  


Reference to the context

a. The author says, "I was not a good pupil, but I was a good learner." Justify it with textual evidence.

Ans:- In the essay Oliver Sacks says, “I was not a good pupil, but I was a good a good learner.” To be a good pupil, one has to be a good relation to teachers in a school. S/he has to attend classes regulary under the instructions provided by the teachers. S/he has to complete all the assignments given by the teacher after the lectures. But Oliver Sacks was not like that kind of pupil. He didn’t like to learn passively. Instead, he likes to learn actively in libraries selecting books of his choice. He loves reading varieties of books in library being free.


b. A proverb says, "Nothing is pleasanter than exploring a library." Does this proverb apply in this essay? Explain.

Ans: The beautiful quotation, “Nothing is pleasanter than exploring a library.” By Waltor savage Landor talks about the happiness, any studious person gets in a library. Any library provides enormous sources of information on variety ot topics. Nothing gives much satisfaction as reading of books gives to a bookish fellow. Oliver Sacks is a book worm who spend much of his time in different libraries in different places. His book reading started from his own library at home. All of his family members loved reading books and he was grown up in that environment. The oak-paneled library at his own home was his favorite room. Instead of attending formal schools, he prefered to read freely in libraries. Specially he enjoyed the library environment and the quiet companionship of other readers. He would love sitting at a table in libraries, with a mountan of books infront of him.


c. Are there are other services that you would like to see added to the library?

Ans:- When he hear the term “Library”, an image comes to our mind that is a room filled with several stocks of book shelves and book lovers reading there. In the past, the shelves were full of paper-based books. I would like to see  libraries offering an abundance of additional services which we can enjoy. I like to have an access to audiobooks, E-books, large print and braille materials, CDs, DVDs, Internet access, community clubs, manuscripts and so on. They could provide access to reading to different readers. Even blind people can read books in a library if they provide braille materials. Intenet users can read E-Books there.


Reference beyond the text

a. Writes an essay on Libraries and their uses for students.

A library is a place where books and sources of information are stored. They make it easier for people to get access to them for various purposes. Libraries are very helpful and economical too. They include books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, manuscripts and more. In other words, they are an all-encompassing source of information. A public library is open to everyone for fulfilling the need for information. They are run by the government, schools, colleges, and universities. The members of the society or community can visit these libraries to enhance their knowledge and complete their research.


Libraries play a vital role in providing people with reliable content. They encourage and promote the process of learning and grasping knowledge. The book worms can get loads of books to read from and enhance their knowledge. Moreover, the variety is so wide-ranging that one mostly gets what they are looking for. Furthermore, they help the people to get their hands on great educational material which they might not find otherwise in the market. When we read more, our social skills and academic performance improves. Most importantly, libraries are a great platform for making progress. When we get homework in class, the libraries help us with the reference material. This, in turn, progresses our learning capabilities and knowledge. It is also helpful in our overall development.


library is a very useful platform that brings together people willing to learn. It helps us in learning and expanding our knowledge. We develop our reading habits from a library and satisfy our thirst and curiosity for knowledge. This helps in the personal growth of a person and development. Similarly, libraries provide authentic and reliable sources of information for researchers. They are able to complete their papers and carry out their studies using the material present in a library. Furthermore, libraries are a great place for studying alone or even in groups, without any disturbance. Moreover, libraries also help in increasing our concentration levels. As it is a place that requires pin drop silence, a person can study or read in silence. It makes us focus on our studies more efficiently. Libraries also broaden our thinking and make us more open to modern thinking. Most importantly, libraries are very economical.


The people who cannot afford to buy new books and can simply borrow books from a library. This helps them in saving a lot of money and getting information for free. In short, libraries are a great place to gain knowledge. They serve each person differently. They are a great source of learning and promoting the progress of knowledge. One can enjoy their free time in libraries by reading and researching. As the world has become digitized, it is now easier to browse through a library and get what you are looking for. Libraries also provide employment opportunities to people with fair pay and incredible working conditions. Thus, libraries help all, the ones visiting it and the ones employed there. We must not give up on libraries due to the digital age. Nothing can ever replace the authenticity and reliability one gets from a library.


b. Do you have any public library in your locality? If so, do the people in your community use it? Give a couple of examples. 

Ans: Do it yourself.

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