Taking into account current debates, the article examines libraries featuring in children’s and young adult dystopian fiction to analyse their structural design, technical development as well as their topographical location and the specific knowledge they contain. It looks at the role libraries play for the fictional characters, i. e. state rulers on the one hand and key protagonists on the other.
The analysis of selected dystopian novels shows that libraries appear in a dual role as virtual versions and as physically existing, topographically located buildings, mostly derelict and demolished but always represented as hidden. This dual role implies different ways to make use of the library collection: While digital resources are usually controlled by the state and only selectively shared with the inhabitants of the fictional world (i. e. are subject to state censorship), the topographically locatable libraries harbour forgotten knowledge that will threaten the system and is hence forbidden. As the narration progresses, the protagonists unearth the old wisdom, which leads to the fall of the (often) totalitarian government, as if to confirm Rieger, Dickhaut and Schmelz’ claim that libraries epitomize “the cultural memory in its spatial and most concrete form” (see “Bücher in Bibliotheken - Das Motiv der Bibliothek”, Spiegel der Forschung no. 2, vol. 16 (1999), p. 15). Therefore it can be assumed that as soon as a library building is entered on purpose or by accident in young adult dystopian fiction, the protagonists stumble over forgotten and ‘overwritten’ knowledge heralding a revolution and the fall of a dictatorial reign, organised out of the hidden depths of a society’s cultural memory.