I recently returned from an oceangoing trip aboard the Cunard liner Queen Mary 2. While en route to various ports of call in both New England and the maritime provinces of Canada, I had the opportunity to explore this luxurious vessel. The Queen Mary 2, as the largest ocean liner ever built, has fourteen public decks that boast amenities that include seven restaurants, three pools, a 1,000 seat theatre, seven lounges, and even a planetarium. As a fan of reading, one of my favorite spots to visit was the ship’s impressive library.
As a true transatlantic ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2 and her amenities are modern-day examples of the Golden Age of oceangoing travel found during the first half of the twentieth century. The library on the ship has a collection of nearly 10,000 items, featuring 8,500 hardbacks, over 500 paperbacks, 200 audio books, and 100 CD-ROMs. Collectively, these items constitute the largest library at sea, according to the Cunard Line. Library staff members point out that the average circulation of items during an eight-day voyage is approximately 700 items. With a maximum capacity of 2,620 persons, this total amounts to an average of three items checked out per passenger, per voyage.
The collection on board the Queen Mary 2 is quite diverse, and offers a broad selection of books, reference materials, and numerous periodicals. Subject areas available include library standards such as: science and natural history, mystery, biography, science-fiction, history, and young adult. Particularly good selections were available in both the travel/travel writing and nautical and transport sections, an obvious reflection of the nature of the library’s location aboard an oceangoing vessel.
Special services available consist of a complete offering of books written in a variety of languages, including German, French, Spanish, and Italian. A librarian is available during regular hours to assist passengers as they explore the Queen Mary 2’s stacks. The library itself also features a fine visual arts collection. Paintings of former Cunard liners, like the original Queen Mary, the Mauretania, the Lusitania, and the Queen Elizabeth 2 can be seen on display throughout the stacks.
Perhaps the most unique feature of this floating collection is the view from the windows of the room itself. The library is located on the very front of Deck 8, and has a large bank of windows that look down to the bow of the ship. Thus, as library patrons sit and read their selections of choice, they can also track the progress of the ship as it plows through the sea.
Having served for many years as a member of the Board of Library Trustees for the Baltimore County Public Library (Maryland), I was quite pleased to see the prominent location given to the library on the Queen Mary 2. I also noted with pleasure that, at each visit I happened to make, the stacks of the ship’s library were alive with the presence of many avid readers. This just goes to show that, no matter whether on land or out on the high seas, books and libraries hold a special place for people from around the world.