Being a lifelong student studying library science, I guess it makes sense that when I started playing Skyrim back in November, I gravitated toward the Winterhold college quest line. (For those unfamiliar with the game, Winterhold College is the mage’s college and if you complete a somewhat involved quest for them while a student there, they promote you from gawky freshman to Arch-mage with nary as much as an undergraduate conjuration course required.) So while I was completing this quest line and hanging out at the college carousing with my mage-y cohorts, doing mead keg stands and the like, I discovered the Arcanaeum.
The Arcanaeum is Winterhold College’s library, there for the research needs of Destruction Mages and Restoration Mages alike. The books are kept, for the most part, inconveniently locked up in cabinets and display cases, so browsing is generally not feasible. There is also a marked lack of computer terminals or card
catalogs, so your ability to find research material in this library is entirely dependent upon the expertise of the staff. There is a nice little open area in the middle of the room,
however, with several tables available. Apparently this library is very forward thinking in some respects, too. Not to be outdone by libraries housing coffee shops, this one apparently allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages as well.
Oh, and the ambiance is fantastic! In addition to all the cool, old books and bottles of wine and mead everywhere, there are skulls. Lots and lots of skulls. There’s nothing that makes a library feel more inviting to me than skulls, I can tell you that much.
Oh, and the Arcanaeum is blessed with its very own super dedicated keeper of the books, named Urag Gro-Shub. Whatever possessed an orc to become a librarian escapes me. (Jp and I call him the “orc-brarian.”) He’s known for saying things like “Disrupt my Arcanaeum, and I will have you torn apart by angry atronachs.” He doesn’t really seem to know the meaning of the phrase “user-centric,” and he takes his work seriously. Like really, really seriously. I think it drives him to the hooch to be honest with you, as he’s often hanging out in the corner with his mug o’ mead, and I found extra bottles stashed behind the circ desk.
Head of Collection Development
So anyway, upon discovering this little enclave of scholarship in a harsh world torn apart by civil war and dragon attacks, I also discovered that I could go on quests to help Urag Gro-Shub expand the college library’s collection. Now, in Skyrim this doesn’t mean the same thing as in our world. I don’t order the books off Amazon or buy them in a book store. People rarely donate anything. No, I have to go into dungeons and giant camps and fight ferocious, blood thirsty enemies in order to secure ownership of these books. And since the wussy orc-brarian isn’t the one putting his life on the line to grow his
collection, I decided to dub myself “Head of Collection Development” at the Arcanaeum. Hey, I can do that. I am the Arch-Mage after all.
So when Urag Gro-Shub wants a new book, he tells me where to go to get it and I fight my way to the prize. Pretty straight forward. Today, he wanted me to get a book called “Chimarvamidium: Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part VI”. Not sure how that is of particular use to mages, but I’m always up for a challenge, so I made the arduous journey to the book’s location. I fought a dragon, two bears, a skeever, a few wolves and a troll. Then I found it in a chest with some glass arrows (score!) and 35 gold
pieces. This may sound like a pain but believe me, I’ve seen worse. This book was relatively easy to obtain.
Then it was back to the Arcanaeum for me to give our new addition to the orc-brarian.
I have to say though, sometimes I feel like he’s not totally appreciative of the lengths I go to in order to improve our collection. When I hand him the book, he responds with a nonchalant “Looks like you’re still in one piece. And more importantly, so is the book. Thank you.” Um, at least he said thank you?
On a slightly different note, I have to say here that I think the degree to which books and reading are integrated into Skyrim is very cool. I don’t read every book I pick up in the game, but I think it is a really nice touch that you can. Another thing that I find cool: You can download all of the in-game books in either EPUB or Kindle format and read them on your E-Reader anywhere. For help downloading the file to your device, just ask for help from your not-so-friendly neighborhood orc-brarian.