Gosh, The Library

Yesterday was Saturday and I had a spare hour so I went to the Library, as I so often do. 

Patricia needed a couple of books so I looked up what people had enjoyed in 2013. 2014 favourites are more likely to be checked out. I came up with two books, ‘Schroder’ by Amity Gaige and ‘The Silent Wife’ by A.S.A Harrison. I found both of them.

I also found the ninth in a Manga series called ‘Bleach’ which Sam is currently crashing his way through. He got the first three off his brother at Christmas and I’ve been finding the rest on the library shelves since then.

I considering borrowing a nice Special Edition DVD of The Life of Brian because I know the guys would love to see it because they adored The Holy Grail but I changed my mind when I considered the amount of nudity I’d have to sit through with them. Not ready for that yet. Sorry, dudes.

I went home with my booty, infinitely happier than when I went in. As is always the case.

You see, I love the Library. It’s not an overstatement of the case, I just love it. I love going in and poking around the shelves and the computer database. I love finding stuff and bringing it home for free. 'Bloody love it, I do.

Our library here in Castlebar is particularly good but, in fairness, I’ve pretty much loved all the libraries I have been a member of, down through the years.

My first library was in Sligo. I got my ticket so young. Where, for so long, I was restricted to the small rectangular kids-section down the back but where, one day, far too small, I asked if I could possibly have an adult ticket and they gave me one. I remember that evening so well. I was like a goldfish we once had. We kept him for ages in a smallish bowl and then I bought him a large tank and he didn’t know what to do with himself in it for a few days. He kept swimming around in a bowl shaped circle until he gradually got accustomed to his widened horizons. That was me in the grown up section of the Sligo Library. That first evening I borrowed a Robert Heinlein book – Glory Road – mostly because there was a cool Dinosaur type monster on the cover. You can see it on the picture above. I see that it was the first UK hardback imprint and now sells for £175. I borrowed it for nothing and read it from monster-cover to monster-cover. It was okay, not as good as the cover. I think I was eleven.

In subsequent libraries that I joined, the choice was wider and the quality of choice higher. First there was Dublin and then the various Boroughs of London I lived in. Kensington, Ealing, Acton and finally Twickenham.

My overriding impression of Twickenham, where I lived for about three years, was the day I brought my new son in with me. He was in a carrying device that fitted across my chest and he was very well behaved and much-admired by staff and patrons alike. I’d say it was my beaming pride in him as much as his own impish good looks which drew them all in. I can’t remember the books I got that day, sorry.

I remember being in Boulder, Colorado for a month and being allowed to get stuff out of the library there too. I remember being amazed that you could borrow movies on video there and that it didn’t cost anything. That was incredible, to me, in 1990. I rented ‘The Manchurian Candidate’.

Then there was Melbourne library, with its magnificent reading room. I spent every day of one month in there, writing my very first screenplay, longhand, in 1990. Buggers still haven't made it... 

Today, there are places where Libraries are threatened. People say they cost too much and have to be reduced or even closed altogether. I am glad to see people fight and resist this and I gladly add my voice to theirs. Thankfully there is no talk of such foolishness here but, if there ever was, I would do my best to fight it tooth and nail.

It’s not just about the wonderful ability to access reading material for free, although I don’t know what I would be if I hadn't had that resource all of my life.

It’s about Sanctuary.

Libraries offer Sanctuary for people like me and for many other kinds of people too. 

It’s a place to go when the rain, real and metaphorical, falls hard upon you. A place where nobody needs to see you buy something before you can be welcomed. A place where, after a time, everybody may come to know your name.

I’m grateful for many things in my life. One of them is my Library. It has taught me and entertained me and sheltered me and given me a reason to go somewhere so many times that I couldn't possibly count them all.

I treasure it. 


Jim Murdoch said...

Sanctuary, yes, I get that. Even remembered libraries are places of sanctuary. I have no bad memories associated with any library. To be fair I have no especially exciting memories concerning libraries either but that’s not what libraries are about. I see people on TV dive into churches, even the nonbelievers, for a break from the action. All I can say is I there was a library on one side of the street and a church on the other I’d head for the library even if I had to cross the street to get to it. I was talking to someone recently—hell, it might’ve even been you (I can’t keep track of who I’ve said what to)—about the difference between the love of books and the love of reading. I think we need a new word—legerophilia, love of reading as opposed to bibliophilia, love of books. It’s not that I don’t love reading but I love books more. Had I the money I would buy thousands of books. I’d line all the walls with books. I’d buy a bigger place so I could have more books knowing full well that I’ve probably got enough time left to read maybe one bookcase full. I just like to be around books. Books calm me. Which is why I like libraries. It’s hard not to be calm in a library. And it’s not just the quiet. But the quiet helps. I think the other thing about libraries is that most of my memories concerning libraries are solitary. I’m not saying I’ve never gone to a library with anyone or that their being there ruined the experience but I prefer to be alone. Strangers don’t count. I don’t think I’ve ever struck up a conversation with anyone in a library either bar the librarian and I’ve never found them to be the chattiest of people. Needless to say I get the same feeling in bookshops. And actually, now I come to think of it, video stores are good too. I remember sitting on the floor in a video store on Dumbarton Road putting all their Star Trek: Voyager tapes in the correct order. I think the shop assistant thought me very strange.

Karen Redman said...

Oh how I love a library too! When I was very young Mum used to take me to Central Birmingham Lending Library every week (not the one that was replaced in 2013 but the one before which had beautiful wooden shelves, metal spiral staircases and rolling ladders). I was young when she first took me there that think I appreciated the gorgeous architecture and atmosphere of the building more than I did its contents but I can remember having my own library card when I was about 7 years old and took my first book out about then too ... It was A Child's Garden of Verses and I loved it so much that my parents bought a copy of it for my birthday so that I would stop renewing it at the Library. But the gift that they gave me that mattered so much more was one that didn't cost a penny and that, of course, was an enduring love of books and reading. My son is 17 and naturally like most kids of his age finds most of what he needs to know on the internet but he's always got a book on the go too ... I took him to our local library in Bournemouth from when he was tiny and these days we can walk for 2 minutes and be in a splendid library here in London, too. I have a Kindle which is an insomniac's friend. I go up to bed far later than my husband does and it means I can read until I fear weary without disturbing him. I became school librarian for a couple of years when I was about 14 years old and Josh did his work experience at Waterstone's in Ilford when he was 15. Long live libraries, long live books and long live reading. (And long live your blog, too. It was a cracker this week!)