I’ve recently rediscovered libraries – specifically, our local Featherston library, which looks like a storybook picture.
I don’t remember buying any new books when I was little – I know we got them for birthdays and Christmas but the rest of the time our reading and discovering was fueled by trips to the library. I read everything and created fantastical scenarios and lives for myself because of it. Just last night, when the black plague was mentioned on a TV show I was watching, I remembered that after reading a ‘discovering history’ series I lived in fear for months that I would get sick and all my clothes and possessions would have to be burnt. It was a close second to the imagined terror of having an accident and going to hospital and your clothes being cut off.
I often now go to the library on a Friday – they have a great section of vintage and craft books, have lots of great homey magazines and the librarians great me by name when I go in. They’ll happily help me hunt through books for a good picture of a ship (to make into a stamp), take an interest in what I’m making and are generous about renewing any books that I forget to bring back on time.
Half the Featherston library is devoted to the children’s section, which is lined with cushions and has big windows, sun shining in, and is where the ever-popular school holiday activities are run. On the other side are three or four computers where members of our community – of all ages – line up to check their email, play games and check in to Facebook. You can also check the latest plans the council is seeking feedback on, buy rubbish bags and pay your rates – it’s really a bit of a one-stop shop.
When times are tough and funding needs to be cut, governments often opt for those cuts to be to “non-essentials” items like libraries. But libraries aren’t just lending books – they’re generating ideas, sharing stories; places to grow community and a warm, inviting place to visit where someone always knows your name.