Although we read ourselves, we also had the immense pleasure of being read to. Both of my parents were excellent readers, transporting us en masse to other worlds.
Oxford also boasts the Bodleian Library, which is the second-largest library in the world, after the Library of Congress. Until recently, the majority of the Bodleian's holdings were underground, and had to be retrieved by trolley, which reminds me of the vaults in Gringott's.
Love of books seems to be rather pervasive in British culture. The honoring of Britain's long literary history, and especially its rich children's literature tradition, in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony is evidence of this.
In David Copperfield, Charles Dickens describes the title character as suffering under his strict new stepfather's harsh regime, yet finding solace in his late father's library, through the introduction to "a glorious host [of characters], to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time...."* Books allow us to travel and to meet with places, ideas, and characters. William Nicholson, in his 1993 screenplay for Shadowlands, about C.S. Lewis's later life, has the character Peter Whistler quote his father as saying" "We read to know we are not alone." We read to connect with ideas and events, hypothetical or real.
Home libraries are also an important part of the book-verse. I feel that by collecting books, I am collecting portals to other places, portals through which I visit other characters, as David Copperfield did. And portals through which I contemplate ideas, and hopefully in discovering kindred minds, feel less alone. Books give us thousands upon thousands of occasions to venture out and to come home.
In Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, he sends the first pair of intrepid explorers, Polly and Digory, from our world to Narnia, where they find themselves in the Wood between the Worlds, in which are many small ponds, which if entered will send one to another specific world. In time, other means of travelling to new worlds evolve, such as through wardrobes. The Wood between the Worlds is like a library to me. Each book is like a world, waiting to be explored.