Skip To Main Content

Exploring the Rich Legacy of Libraries in Sicily: A Research Journey

Exploring the Rich Legacy of Libraries in Sicily: A Research Journey

The newly established Hibbitt/Rockwell Fund Travel Fellowship is an opportunity for faculty and student-facing staff to engage in a travel experience that will energize and enrich their professional lives. The intention of this program is to promote enthusiasm and creativity in their work with students. Colleen Zeitz Upper School Librarian and Math teacher recently went on a research journey to Sicily. Below is her story. 

Embarking on a research expedition to Sicily allowed me to delve into the rich history of libraries in the region. Sicily, a Mediterranean cultural crossroads, boasts a history deeply intertwined with the development of knowledge preservation. My journey offered remarkable insights into how these repositories of knowledge have adapted under diverse cultural influences. Each library I visited showcased a unique blend of history, resilience, and dedication to knowledge preservation.

I visited libraries that have stood the test of time, shaped by the influences of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, Norman, and Spanish cultures. The Biblioteca Centrale della Regione Siciliana in Palermo, with its treasure trove of rare manuscripts, transported me back to eras long past. 

One of the amazing images was a carved marble sign of the historical operational hours at the Sciascia Library in Palermo. In order to protect the books from potential fire hazards posed by candles or lamps, the library's access was timed to coincide with the sun's angle, ensuring safe illumination through the windows. As the seasons shifted and the sun's path changed, the library's hours of accessibility shifted accordingly. When the sun was closest to vertical in June, the library's availability was limited to less than an hour per day. This ingenious use of angles in the physical world was a fascinating connection to the angles I teach my math students, reminding me of how mathematics is intertwined with everyday life. This sign also underscores the care taken to preserve the literary treasures housed within the library's walls, and helps me appreciate modern lighting in our libraries!

While my journey focused on libraries, it was impossible to ignore the storytelling power of other forms of historical preservation. Ancient mosaics in the Monreale Duomo and the Villa Romane de Casale served as eloquent texts, narrating stories of the past through intricate artistry. 

As I return to my roles as a librarian and a teacher at Lincoln School, the echoes of this expedition resonate deeply. The interplay between libraries and the diverse cultures of Sicily mirrors the potential of libraries to bring people together, foster lifelong learning, and ignite curiosity. I am excited to share the stories, history, and significance of these libraries to inspire members of the Lincoln community to view libraries not just as repositories of information, but as dynamic spaces that have played an enduring role in shaping societies. Through this, I hope to foster an appreciation for global knowledge exchange and the power of the written word.

My expedition to Sicily's libraries and manuscripts has been a voyage of enrichment, discovery, and connection. Immersing myself in the world of knowledge preservation across cultures has reaffirmed my dedication to nurturing learning, cultivating curiosity, and underscoring the timeless significance of libraries in our ever-evolving world. As a math teacher, I've gained insights that transcend my subject, reminding me that education is a multifaceted journey that encompasses history, culture, and the collaborative pursuit of knowledge.