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The Dream of a Rolling Bookshelf Ladder

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

Many a book lover remembers watching Beauty and the Beast and wondering at the library that the Beast gifts Belle with.


Yes, please.


As a bookish kid, I loved Belle for her passion for reading, but it wasn’t the library that got seared into my brain. It was the sweep of the rolling bookshelf ladder.


Maybe those two scenes got mixed together in my head, because now I associate having a ladder like that with incredible literary abundance. Obviously, once you can majestically glide over your book collection, that’s when you know you’ve made it.

Having my own bookshelf ladder doesn’t make much sense. I still have cheap shelves that wouldn’t be able to support one, and besides, all my books are within reaching distance. But there have been multiple customers that have come into the bookstore I work at, looked up at the books going all the way to the (raised) ceiling, and sighed, “This is almost perfect. You just need one of those ladders, you know? From Beauty and the Beast?” Obviously I wasn’t the only one to take it to heart. I had to agree, so much so that I started to seriously wonder about it. Why don’t we have rolling ladders? It would certainly save on the time of pulling out ladders and hanging them up again all the time.


That’s when I realized the tragic impossibility of the thing. If it was even possible to install them, they couldn’t be for customer use, for self-evident insurance reasons. And imagine how sad it would be to walk into a bookstore that is staged to recreate that scene, except that there’s a little chain across the ladder saying “For staff use only”. Worse, even if it is possible to glide along a bookcase as elegantly as it looks in animation, you couldn’t do that in a crowded bookstore–TBS (To Be Shelved) stacks would be scattered everywhere, customers would be in danger. So the reality of having those ladders would be deeply disappointing for a customer. Employees would unchain the ladder, carefully slide it over a couple feet and then climb up, making sure to chain it again after they’re done.

And so, the dream continues unfulfilled. To anyone that’s actually been able to use a rolling bookshelf ladder: Did it make you feel as if you ascended to book heaven? It is as majestic as the movies make it look?