Drawing: View from the huge flight of stairs of Vienna's Main Library over the roofed Urban-Loritz-Platz

Magic of Christmas in the Main Library


I have always had the feeling that there is something special about the tarps that are stretched over large sections of the Urban-Loritz-Platz as a protection against rain, sun, and snow. To me they look like bat wings had inspired the architects. One night on my way home, as I walked beneath the tarps, it became clear to me why they are so special.

Already from afar I noticed that today there was something different about the roof than usual. Wasn´t the square a lot darker? When I stood directly under the roof, not one of the spotlights that should light the tarps from beneath was working. In the snack stalls where normally, at this time of the day, kebab is being prepared and sausages are sizzling it was pitch-dark. And wasn´t there a twitch in the tarps? Now again?

Suddenly I felt a pull on my hand. Next to me was a small girl with a strange cap on her head whose eyes were sparkling up to me. "Come with me" the girl said, took my hand and pulled me away. The girl´s strange headgear had a long tail with a red star on the end that was blinking like the signal light of an aeroplane. "Cling on tight" she said and to my big shock we lifted up from the ground a few moments later and rose up like hot-air balloons.

Magical flight

We flew around the tarps, rose higher and higher and when we were able to see over the roof with its wings, spikes, and tines in its entirety, the girl invited me to press the blinking red star on the end of her pointed cap. After I had done this the tarps beneath us began to glimmer like coal that´s still glowing faintly with a gentle breeze blowing into them. And suddenly a sparklingly colourful dragon came loose from the anchorage and was purring like a cat and with his friendly face looked at us in an adventurous way. "Let´s start" the girl said, "we don´t have a lot of time. And save your sparkles for the books!"

As we settled down on the back of the mythical creature that stopped sparkling for now, the girl told me what I had the big honour to participate in. "Once a year before Christmas the book dragon and I speed through the city and sprinkle all books with glitter dust. A particularly big amount is dusted onto the books of kids." "And-and-and" I stuttered, all mixed up and full of excitement, "w-w-what e-effect does this gli-glitter dust have?" "Enjoy the surprise" the girl said and with a loud whistle she gave the dragon the commando to take off. The dragon purred happily, wagged his tail and started moving with clumsy kicks. Very soon he glided effortlessly through the air like a bird, made a few big circles above the square full of exuberance and, on call of the girl, plunged vertically into one of the ventilation shafts into the inside of the Vienna Main Library that is located on the Urban-Loritz-Platz.

The spell of books

The elongated, deserted rooms of the library spread around us, being all grey and sallow. Here and there light from the streets came in through slits and hatches. And again there was a shrill whistle and the dragon sped through the hallways like a storm, swirled the books out of the bookshelves and let out a blindingly bright, colourful dust that apparently was able to bring the books to life. Because with their pages, they fluttered like startled birds and not only that, also the characters of the stories buzzed out of the books in dazzling colours. They stretched, pulled funny faces, whirled and danced, pinched and talked to each other in many different languages, before they became silent and froze and got trapped again by the books. They grabbed them like fish snatch at their food. And as soon as they had collected all their characters, the books flew back into the bookshelves.

After we had freshened up even the last corner of the Main Library with our magic, we spiralled up again through the ventilation shaft, at my request flew over to Westbahnhof, down Mariahilfer Straße, and back again to Urban-Loritz-Platz, where we said goodbye, even though I would have loved to go on fly with them all night long. Puzzled, happy, and also sad I looked after the book dragon and his companion who were disappearing in the night sky.

… and of people

When I visited the Main Library the next day – the tarps stretched over the square like usual and collected rain that was falling from the sky – I didn´t even care to look for traces of glitter dust or the positive effect that it must have had on the readers in the library, even though I felt very tempted to do so. I just watched the books how they brought joy to the people, fascinated them, beguiled them, made them start conversations, widened their knowledge and deepened their understanding for each other – and all that in many different languages. Christmas time couldn´t start any more beautiful than that.


Interesting links to the story

Location of the Main Library – wien.at Vienna City Map

Main Library on Urban-Loritz-Platz (German)
Libraries in Vienna
Vienna Libraries on Facebook  

Historical information in "Wien Geschichte Wiki" (Vienna History Wiki) in German:

Drawing: Sandra Biskup
Text: Simon Kovacic
Translation: Doris Nicht