Student Blog

January 3, 2022         Else Madsen ’25

When I was little, my favorite place on earth was in my grandpa’s library. Nestled right next to the kitchen, I loved to sit in his giant chair, far too big for my seven-year-old frame, and take in the smell of leather and old books.

My grandfather is a pastor, and an amateur archeologist, and many of his books were in languages I didn’t understand (Greek, Latin, and Arabic) and from times so long ago my brain couldn’t comprehend the vastness. But that didn’t stop me from pulling book after book from the shelf and scanning the pages with an endless curiosity. Sometimes he would come in and translate bits and pieces of the text for me. None of it made any particular sense at the time, but I loved it nonetheless.

That is, I think, where my love of books first began. It launched a lifelong longing for books, the stories they held, and respect for the continued wisdom held within and offered from them. These volumes evoked a different sort of contentment, for they were art and intellect both. Their heft and weight gave them not just gravity but gravitas, imbued all the more with both due to the delicacy that time had inflicted upon them. Their carefully, intricately bound leather and parchment pages marked with the careful strokes of ink evoked awe and humility as I imagined the pain-staking work that must have been done to bring the leather and parchment shell to life, and the many hands that touched the pages, eyes that took them in, and minds that lingered over them.

I felt that same awed fascination when I first stepped into the Hong-Kierkegaard Library.

My first exposure to the library occurred in the fall of 2020 when I toured the St. Olaf campus. Between the beautiful fall colors, the Malt-O-Meal smell in the air, and the incredible latte from the Cage, I was already pretty convinced that St. Olaf was the right choice for me. The deal was solidified, however, when I was assigned to sit in on one of Professor Marino’s classes. The class was fascinating, and after it’s completion, I went to thank Professor Marino for the chance to listen in. In his incredible kindness, he invited me to visit his office and the rest of the Hong Kierkegaard Library.

Walking into the library, I could tell that this was a place that valued curiosity, critical thinking, and questioning. And, I could tell that this was a place where I could once again lose myself in the shelves of books and the possibilities that their contents held.

I left with a feeling of contentment and certainty. And, when I once again arrived on campus, this time as an official student in September of this year, I came with renewed excitement at the opportunity to return as a student worker to the Hong-Kierkegaard Library. Of course, the library is now transitioning between homes, so I haven’t yet been able to walk through the shelves again. But it has been an honor and a joy to work with the library and its staff to help the books find their new home.

I encourage you to visit the library as soon as it’s set up in it’s new home. Whether you’re a weathered Kierkegaard expert, or whether you’ve never heard the name, the library’s endless shelves are humbling in their vastness.