How I learned to love libraries

I love libraries! I can’t imagine a world without them. But I wasn’t always so enamoured with them. Once upon a time, in my dim and dark past, libraries were places to be fearful of.

The first library I remember visiting was my primary school library way back in the 1970s. Once a week our class would visit the library and each student got to borrow a book. Actually, each student had to borrow a book. This was back when I didn’t like reading. I wasn’t very good at it and I didn’t like the readers we were given in class. The library, as far as I was concerned at the time, was filed with more of those awful, boring, difficult to read book things. But I was expected to borrow a book each week. So I did. I would borrow a book, take it home in my library bag and dutifully ignore it until the following week, when I would return it and begin the process again.

Thankfully, things did change. Somewhere in mid-primary I discovered Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet —a book that showed me that reading could be fun. You would think, now that I had decided to like reading, that I would enjoy visiting the library. No! Even though I now enjoyed reading, I still wasn’t very good at it… and I was very slow. The thought of having only one week to read a book filled me with fear. So each week I would search the shelves for books with as few words as I thought I could get away with borrowing. I would often end up reading books way below my level, simply so I could feel confident about returning them the following week. I have a distinct memory of borrowing (and loving) all the Anatole books by Eve Titus — simple, heavily illustrated books about a French mouse, aimed at early primary school level.

Things did eventually get better. My reading confidence slowly increased (although my speed did not) and I discovered the wonders of re-borrowing. “WOW! You mean I can keep a book for two weeks?” So I started borrowing more challenging books, one of my favourites being a large hardcover illustrated edition of L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — I borrowed and read this book several times over. By the time I started high school, I had learned to love libraries, and I made regular use of my high school’s library, even though we didn’t have to borrow its books.

After all these years, I still love going to libraries. I am a frequent visitor to my local library. I am still not the fastest of readers, so that re-borrow feature comes in handy every now and then. And now that I have kids, I love taking them to the library. My oldest daughter, at seven years of age, excitedly borrows books from her school library each week… and usually ends up finishing whatever book she gets, on the day she gets it.

My use of libraries has changed over the years. Where once I used to mostly borrow novels and books for reading relaxation, these days I tend to use libraries more for research. I write a lot for the primary school education market (see my post: School Readers), so I’m forever searching out facts about everything from Native American myths to lions’ teeth. I do a lot of research on the World Wide Web, but I still keep coming back to my local library. I can search the catalogue, reserve a book and even re-borrow from the comfort of my own computer via the library’s website. Very convenient!

If you’re sufficiently interested in my thoughts on libraries to want more… you can read my article about the University of Melbourne’s library at the Baillieu Library’s 50th Anniversary Memory Board — “The Baillieu, friendship, and graffiti”.

If you’ve got any library memories you’d like to share, leave a comment.

And tune in next time to find out about the latest books from Ford Street Publishing.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… a great place to hang out when you’re not at the library.

Published by

George Ivanoff

LITERARY CLUTTER: Bookish bloggings from the cluttered mind and bookshelf of Melbourne author, George Ivanoff. George is the author of the YOU CHOOSE books, the OTHER WORLDS series, the RFDS Adventures and the GAMERS trilogy.

5 thoughts on “How I learned to love libraries”

  1. Even reading this makes me remember the smell of our library in the 70’s, the sound my shoes made walking around it.
    My primary school was a tiny rural one, and I’d read all the books by the end of grade four or so. Visiting the local municipal library was such a treat for me. Books. Lots of books.
    At Monash University in the 80’s I loved going to all the different libraries to study or just browse. The hush, all those catalogue cards. I love the ease of the computer catalogue, but wasn’t there something extra special about going through the drawers of the cards?
    I’m a huge library user still. Our local branch has just moved in to new whizzbang premises with computer and meeting rooms, expanded collections and a whole new world to discover.
    I love it!

  2. have started at Melbourne Uni in 1970 (or was it ’69?) the Baillieu was one of the best places for socialising – at the end of every floor was a ‘social space’ used for conversation, coffee and endless cigarettes. Your social group and interests were defined by the floor your frequented.
    For women’s business – some secret and much subversive, the generous and spacious ladies loos on each floor provided a conversation space – full of shared secrets, relationship d&ms, development of strategies for dealing with a patriarchal world and creative ideas building.
    I guess we sat at a desk and pulled books out of the stacks sometimes. Unfortunately no Wikipedia or google available in those days.

  3. Sally — Yes, I agree. I also miss the old card catalogues.

    Anne — Yep, there’s more to a library than books!

  4. Sorry, guys – I’m a librarian and I just can’t BELIEVE that anyone could possibly miss card catalogues! Maybe it’s because you never had to make the damn things – at least five cards for every book, having to be typed up and filed, no way of knowing if the book was there or not, cards going missing every time someone decided they couldn’t be bothered writing down their choice, then having to do stocktake and pull out at least five cards for every missing book. Not to mention the number of people who just didn’t get the idea of “subject, author, title” – and this includes adults, who would whine that you had no books about such and such when you had fifty. These days it’s all keywords – yay! And checking books in and out with cards – urk…

    I cried for joy when I threw out my last lot of catalogue cards.

  5. Sue, I completely agree that the current computerised system is much easier to use and is more efficient. But there is a degree of nostalgia in me for the old card system. It is intrinsically associated with my memories of high school and early Uni.

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