The Force Awakens in the Library
16 December 2015
It would surprise exactly no one to hear that many of the staff at the National Library of Australia are very excited about the imminent release of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. Libraries just seem to attract people that are on the right wavelength to be Star Wars fans, but the connection between Star Wars and libraries runs deeper. Read on. It is your destiny.
Because of the massive amount of material depicting the Star Wars expanded universe, libraries often have large holdings of related books and other media. The National Library is no exception. Apart from the more obvious published works including Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, we also have a good collection of fanzines from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s including Empire Star: Monthly News and Jedi Report and The Force published by the Star Wars Appreciation Society of Australia—Star Walking.
With this wealth of material available, it makes sense that since its launch in 2012 by Lucasfilm, public libraries around the world have been venues for Star Wars Reads Day, an annual event celebrating reading and Star Wars.
We have around 12,000 school kids come through the Library each year. To the delight of students, fun similarities between the National Library of Australia’s building and Star Wars come to life on our behind-the-scenes school programs.
The Library’s motorised compactus units are constantly compared to the Death Star garbage compactor that almost squashes Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
We also have a small fleet of ‘droids’ (actually Transcars—robotic book trollies named Charlie) that roam the underground stacks assisting with collection delivery. You can watch this fun video to find out more about their work:
The Jedi Library
Early in the second prequel film Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) consults Jocasta Nu, archivist/librarian at the Jedi Library about the planet Kamino, details of which are unable to be found in the collection. He is told quite abruptly that ‘if an item does not appear in our records ... it does not exist.’ This is quite obviously a poor representation of the manner of reference librarians, who in reality—and especially here at the National Library—are far more resourceful and helpful than Ms Nu!
Interestingly, and despite apparent denials from Lucasfilm, interiors for the Jedi Library seem to have been closely modelled on the beautiful barrel-vaulted Long Room of Trinity College Library in Dublin. Trinity College Library is also home to one of Ireland’s national treasures, the Book of Kells.
It’s not just the National Library of Australia that has revealed fun Star Wars collection connections.
Also this year, a University Librarian in Canada found an early script for the 1977 Star Wars film while working to digitise the library’s collection of zines, and discusses its relationship to the infamous ‘Han shot first’ fan controversy.
Much of the recent focus for staff in the Public Programs area of the National Library of late has been preparing for our upcoming blockbuster exhibition Celestial Empire: Life in China, 1644–1911. In partnership with the National Library of China, the exhibition reveals the life, culture and tradition of the last imperial dynasty that formed the foundations of modern China, and provides a window into nearly 300 years of life at court, in the fields, on the mountains of the interior and in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai.
Now, we might be grasping at straws here, but check these incredible works of Star Wars characters reimagined in traditional Chinese art by Hong Kong artist Tik Ka.
We were thinking #celestialempirestrikesback. No? You’re right. Maybe not.