The Library in the Ice is a short distance away from the Neumayer III Station. Can you describe for us what it’s like walking from the station to the library?
Holger Schmithüsen: Well, there are two different scenarios: with a snowstorm and without. If the weather is nice, you can walk straight to the library container – it’s about 100 metres as the crow flies. But if there’s a snowstorm, you need to slowly make your way by clinging to a cable handrail supported by aluminium poles. First you head south, in the direction of the trace minerals observatory, before turning off for the library.
Once you’ve made your way there, what do you do with all of the gear you’re wearing?
Holger Schmithüsen: The container is basically split in two, so that you first come into an entry area with a changing room. There you can take off all your polar gear – the overalls and boots – and can put on the slippers provided. Then a second door takes you to the actual library.
If we were sitting at a desk in the library, what could we see out the window?
Holger Schmithüsen: You’re facing north and can see the west side of the station, where the entrance is. So you can also see the snowmelt, which provides fresh water for the station.
Is going to the library container fairly routine, or more of an exception to the rule?
Holger Schmithüsen: That depends on what you want to use it for. There are some people at the station who almost never visit the library, while others go there all the time. For me the library was like a small outpost, a quiet zone, so to speak. Of course you also have enough peace and quiet at the station in winter, but the library is a unique place, separate from the daily grind.
Give us an impression of the book collection. What books could we find there?
Holger Schmithüsen: Lutz Fritsch didn’t put any limitations on what kinds of books could be donated, so the selection is extremely diverse. There are coffee-table books, novels and works of non-fiction. For instance, there’s also a box of alphabet noodles with the handwritten title “The Collected Works of Goethe”!
What makes the Library in the Ice different from your average library in Germany?
Holger Schmithüsen: The flair is a lot like a mini-library, but the major difference is that the books aren’t sorted in any way. So the collection invites browsing.
How many books did you read during your overwintering time?
Holger Schmithüsen: I didn’t read any books from cover to cover, but I definitely took about 20 off the shelf, thumbed through them and read the signatures. Supposedly, one of the books was donated by a relative of mine who Lutz Fritsch knows, but I never found it.
Interview conducted by: Kristina Bär, Dept. of Communications and Media Relations