I honestly don’t understand anyone who doesn’t understand, use or ‘get’ libraries. Two of my strongest memories of my childhood are linked to libraries. The smell of Seaside Library with its wooden bookshelves, handing over my little ticket wallet (back when books were stamped with a date) and checking out the Madeline books, amongst others. Another memory I’ve already written about in my favourite smells Ten On Tuesday, was the weekly trip to the Central Library with my family.
On arrival in Australia, one of the first things I did, literally in the first week I arrived, was join the two local libraries. Actually thinking about it, I joined one before I even left the UK; I just had to take my passport into them to claim my card when I moved to Melbourne. On my arrival, we lived between two suburbs and also two ‘city’ boundaries, so I get the pick of a total of 6 local libraries to choose from by joining those two.
- They are a hive of local information, useful when you’ve just moved halfway round the world and don’t know anything or anyone.
- Free books, you can try before you buy. Sometimes you might have to queue for a book by reserving it, but doesn’t that heighten the anticipation? Lionel Shriver said on Woman’s Hour during a discussion around the 100 inheritence books from the Orange Prize, she she chose a book “that was fun to read, because reading shouldn’t be a trial. I always had a book on my lap in class, because reading was what I did instead of what I was supposed to be doing.” I’m slowly working my way through the Booker Prize Winners, but I am not going to buy all the books, not even on my Kindle, I will read them from the library first and if I can’t live without them, then I’ll buy them.
- Free CDs, ditto! In the spirit of Project 333 and living with less stuff, I don’t buy CDs any more (or DVDs). But I still want to listen to music, so off I toddle to the library and borrow music. If I try it on and don’t like it, I’ve not spent $20-30 on something I won’t listen to again, but if I love it, I will then buy the album from iTunes.
- Audio books on CD, now I lurve these with a passion. I listen them on long journeys, and also instead of the radio over here when I’m at home (Aussie radio is dire). I also listen to ‘The Cat Who’ books to sleep to, which doesn’t sound great, but I listen to the words and try and write them in my mind, it stops me thinking about other things while I’m trying to switch off. I normally last about 20 minutes, but leave it running gently all night in case I wake up and have to do it all over again.
- Free DVDs, again, try before you buy. We also rent DVDs through the mail too, but either way, we’ve saved a fortune by not just buying films we like the look of, to never watch again.
- One of the libraries I use has a gorgeous meeting room, that can be rented by businesses or groups for a nominal charge, it’s also attached to a great cafe and an art gallery, is 2 minutes drive from a park, so can provide hours of entertainment in a small area of Melbourne.
- You can park yourself in the library for hours and read through magazines, books and reference material pulling a project together. One thing we’re adamant we want Peanut to be able to do is research properly, not just use Google, this can only be learnt by practicing and doing.
- Anything that teaches children to read and appreciate books over an electronic gadget is a sure fire winner in my eyes. Most libraries have a comprehensive children’s section with reading sessions, play time and mums and babies slots. I’m not saying children can’t have electronic gadgets, I’m saying that nothing will transport you more completely than your imagination, which is honed through play; getting a bit bored and having to make your own entertainment; and reading. Being constantly plugged into something is already causing problems with children’s attention spans, what happens when they get to the big wide world of work and have to do something for 8 hours a day?
- The staff, they are knowledgable, helpful and under appreciated!
- Berriganshire library is in a gorgeous little town just inside the border of NSW. It’s a lovely library, and their free wifi extends across the road to the cafe, which they are both proud of, and find funny. The library is the real focus of the community, which to me, is what every library is about.
Sadly, many libraries all over the world are undersubscribed, so face closure. A lot of things can be found on the interweb, but somethings you can’t put a price on, or search for on Google.