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On Libraries (Essay) Summary

 On Libraries

by Oliver Sack

About the author

Oliver Sacks was born in 1933 in London and was educated at the Queen’s College, Oxford. He completed his medical training at San Francisco’s Mount Zion Hospital and at UCLA before moving to New York, where he soon encountered the patients whom he would write about in his book Awakenings. Sacks was a neurologist and an author whose case studies of patients with unusual disorders became best-sellers. His focus on patients with particularly rare or dramatic problems made his work popular with writers in other forms, and his case studies were adapted into several different movies and operas. Dr. Sacks spent almost fifty years working as a neurologist and wrote a number of books--including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Hallucinations--about the strange neurological predicaments and conditions of his patients. The New York Times referred to him as "the poet laureate of medicine," and he received many awards, including honors from ‘The Guggenheim Foundation,’ The National Science Foundation, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The Royal College of Physicians. His memoir, On the Move, was published shortly before his death in August 2015.


“On Libraries” is written in praise of intellectual freedom, community work, and the ecstasy of serendipitous discovery. Among the titans of mind and spirit shaped and saved by libraries was the great neurologist, author, and voracious reader.



The essay 'On Libraries' is written by Oliver Sacks. In this essay, the essayist remembers his childhood. He grew in an oak paneled library inherited from his father where so many books were stacked.  Oliver is happy in this essay because it is his autobiographical writing. He is so delightful. It is written in praise of intellectual freedom, community work, high state of unexpected discovery and so on.


The essayist has good habit of reading books in libraries. He has found his natural curiosity unstimulated by the industrial model of education into which he was pushed. At the library he was master of his own time and mind. He got so many ideas from books. He discovered the living substance of learning without the ill-fitting structure of schooling. He apprehended liberation through self-directed learning. He also found a surprising sense of community, which became a wonderful complement to his newfound intellectual autonomy. Autonomous learning is very important and good to achieve success.


The essayist moved to New York City in 1965. He started to live in a small apartment. It was difficult for him to read and write but he began to write. He wrote the books on mind. Then, he was accepted into Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he felt comfort to read and write. He met another friend there who was also searching for the books of brain. They had close connection because they shared their knowledge to each other. He continued reading books in the library. At that time students ignored bookshelves because of their access of the materials on the computers. Some libraries started to discard old books. He didn’t like that. For him it was very bad thing which he took as murder or crime. The library became his escape from the oppressions and adversity of a young person.


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