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.