The patients' library “The library was my salvation”

The “Krimiecke” (Whodunnit Corner) is popular with the visitors.
The “Krimiecke” (Whodunnit Corner) is popular with the visitors. | Photo (detail): © Beate Detlefs

Andrea D. discovered the patients' library in the spring of 2017. Like many people who are critically ill, she was left alone with her thoughts. Reading took her mind off the fear and helped her focus on new things.

I had been working as a nurse in the Berlin district of Mitte and since 2003 I had also been a medical documentation assistant. At the beginning of 2017 I noticed symptoms that really frightened me: numbness in my fingers, tingling in my arms, shoulder pain. While lying down, I had the least pain. I spent weeks lying on the sofa, mostly on my back. The only thing I could do at the time that was relatively painless was to read – I would immerse myself for a few peaceful hours in another world.

It took two months for the doctors to hit upon the correct diagnosis – a slipped disk in two of the vertebrae in my neck. During this time I was forever going to appointments at the hospital and at some point I came across the book trolley of the patients' library. I was given a slip of paper with the opening hours of the library, together with a warm invitation to visit it.

Reading can put things into a historical perspective. Reading can put things into a historical perspective. | Photo (detail): © Beate Detlefs The patients' library is part of an old building on the clinic campus of Charité Mitte, somewhat enchanted and covered with Virginia creeper. The visits there helped me to gain a more positive frame of mind. Above all, I was looking for subjects that would distract me from panic. I had always liked to read murder mysteries and now I had discovered the Whodunnit section of the patients library. It was if the library wrapped itself around me like a small house, giving me a feeling of security - a very intense experience in a nice atmosphere.

I got to know a lot of authors there. The things I read often really touched me, especially when the books had been written in a particularly subtle way – that was fun. The library is fully adapted to the needs of patients. My request, for example, for the final part of a trilogy, was immediately fulfilled. The stock was always up-to-date.

The vertebrae in my neck were fixed and meanwhile I feel much better. Several times a week I go to the clinic for physiotherapy and check-ups and, while I am there, I swap my books at the library. Almost every week there are new books available, which I like to pre-order in case other patients and co-workers get their hands on them before me. In this way I am gradually reading my way through the whole inventory.

The varied range of media available at the library helps people to recover. The varied range of media available at the library helps people to recover. | Photo (detail): © Beate Detlefs At night, I was trapped in the trauma of my neck injury, but during the day I was able to forget my fears by reading. I was able to concentrate on something new. People who are seriously ill are often completely left alone with their thoughts. Access is blocked to the worlds that make life worth living. The library provides a window through which new horizons can be seen. With each book you enter a different world. That was the input I needed!

A popular reading place in fine weather - the bench in front of the patients' library A popular reading place in fine weather - the bench in front of the patients' library | Photo (detail): © Beate Detlefs

Andrea D. (born 1954) has been working as a nurse and medical documentation assistant at the University Clinic of the Charité Hospital in the Berlin district of Mitte since 1975.
The patients' library at the Campus Charité Mitte is one of two patients' libraries of the Charité Hospital in Berlin. It comprises 14,000 media units and has full-time and voluntary employees. In the morning, the patients have the books brought to them in 20 wards of the clinic by means of the book trolley, the main library is open from 12 midday onwards.
 

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