Tag Archives: library

A Little Library Love

Photo by Ben GallagherLibraries seem to be having a bit of a tough time of it these days. With eReaders all the rage, and Google the Oracle of All, and Wikipedia the combined knowledge of the masses, there’s a lot of concern that Libraries are going to go the way of the Dinosaurs. Before you know it, we’ll be crashing giant, flaming meteorites into them and burying them under enough rock and ash that they’ll remain mostly intact for future generations to find and wonder at.

Last week, Ben Trube wrote a Vigorous Defense of Libraries and posed the question: How do you feel about libraries?

I tried to answer. I really did. But my answer was longer than his original post. (This happens more often than you’d imagine.) So I decided I should post my answer here, in my own personal space, rather than taking up all of his.

The short answer: I love my local library.

Love.
It.

The long answer: I go to the library at least once every couple of weeks. Sometimes more. So, why do I love it?

1) Access to lots and lots (and lots) of books for free.

I realise this should go without saying, but it’s really the most important thing. I simply don’t have the money to buy every book I’d like to read.  So far this year I’ve read 42 books, all of which have been borrowed either from friends or from the library. If I’d purchased them all, that would have cost me at least $800.

Then there’s the books my five-year-old reads. He can easily go through 10 books every week. Without access to a library, perhaps he wouldn’t have the great love for books that he has.

2) Access to a wider range of books than you’d expect.

All the libraries in my district work together to ensure library patrons have access to a large quantity of books. Rather than all of them trying to stock every book (which would be impossible considering the cost-cutting going on), they co-ordinate their ordering process. Then they offer a service where you can request a book from another library, and it is transferred to your library within 48 hours for 60 cents.

Plus, you can use this service online from home — I just place my order and head to the library a couple of days later to pick up my books. How convenient is that?

3) Free computer use (for word processing) and cheap internet access.

Yes, I have a computer at home. Yes, that’s more convenient. But, you know what? I’ve done any amount of writing in the library when I’ve needed a different environment to get my brain firing. If I can escape to the library for a couple of hours, I have distraction-free writing time without internet access or a fridge in the next room.

4) School holiday programs.

My local library teaches everything from book-binding to poetry to writing to “make your own comic” in the school holidays. Plus they have a variety of shows and events — X-Box competitions, magic shows, giant board game days. It’s free, it’s fun, and it gives the kids a reason to want to go to the library. (Other than the obvious reason that it’s a room full of books!)

5) The librarians.

These are people who love books, who are paid to hang out in buildings full of books, and answer the same question over and over and over and over, day after day, with a friendly smile. Plus, they know stuff.

And not just stuff like: What’s the name of that book that I read ten years ago with a red cover and a clock on the front where the main character’s name is Jane?

Librarians can recommend books similar to those you’ve read before, tell you where to get information on a variety of topics, show you how to use the photocopier, teach you how to use the online book catalogue, and direct you to the restrooms, all while singing songs about teddy bears to a group of enthralled children and saving a cat from a burning building.

They’re just that good.

When was the last time you went to the library? Do you love your local library as much as I love mine?

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Filed under Opinion, Reading

Versatility is not a Dirty Word

 As you probably know, I’m a bit of a fan of Bridget at Twinisms. Not only is she amazingly smart and funny, she also likes wine. We have so much in common!

So I was rather thrilled this week when she awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks, Bridget!

If you’ve been hanging out for a while, you may remember that back in the olden days (i.e. a few months ago), I was given the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award by the charming Laura Stanfill, and I mentioned that I have a two-decade vow to never forward on a chain-letter to uphold.

But…

In this case, the award calls for recipients to state 5 interesting and new facts about myself, and then suggest 5 blogs that I’ve recently come across and enjoy. This seems much less chainy (at least, it does to me), and I recommend 5 blogs every Monday anyway, so this isn’t really going out of my way. 

Five Things You Didn’t Know about Me:

1.

There are some people in the world who make an impact on you, and for the rest of your life you can’t help but think about them every time you hear their name. My first ever Best Friend was named Fiona, and I therefore assume that everyone in the world named Fiona is cool and amazing unless proved otherwise. My first ever Boyfriend was named Adam, and I therefore assume that everyone in the world named Adam is sweet and smart and has mother issues unless proved otherwise.

We all have these name biases. And the ones that stand out the most are the names that belonged to the first person to truly make your life difficult. That person who, even just in your memory, can fill you with fear or anger or hatred.

In my case, that person was a girl named Laura. Laura was the leader of the “popular group” when I was 13, and she and her cohorts made my life a living hel for 2 years. So I have mercilessly tortured her in text for the last 22 years. Every “mean girl who gets her comeuppance”, every torture victim, every “random stranger bludgeoned to death in an alley”, and every “girl eaten by zombie” that I’ve ever written has been named Laura. (Or, on occasion, Lauren. Just so things don’t get boring.)

So if you’re ever reading one of my stories and you come across someone named Laura, don’t get too attached. That’s all I’m saying.

2.

 The first “real” story that I remember writing was about 1500 words long. It was a scary story that I wrote when I was 10. The story was about a monster named Basketball-Head, so named because his head was a basketball. He lived in a cave outside of town. On summer evenings, he would sneak into town and search for people playing basketball. Then he’d grab them, bite their heads off, and run away with the ball.

The hero of the story was a girl who hated basketball. She liked exploring, and one day she found his cave. (I got to use the word spelunking in my story. I was so proud.) There she met Basketball-Head, and got talking to him. It turned out that he didn’t realise basketballs were just balls. He thought the evil humans were making sport out of torturing baby Basketball-Heads to death. So he was rescuing and avenging the children. He’d take the basketballs back out to his cave, and bury them in his Basketball Graveyard.

So our little heroine explained what was really happening, and Basketball-Head apologised to the townspeople, and everything was okay.

The End.

3.

My first ever job was working in a library. I got to read new books before the general public, help people find interesting things to read (“You know, it’s about a dog and it has a red cover…”), and daydream about the day my own novel would be in libraries all over the world.

So I was checking books in one day. Pick up book, open back cover, scan barcode, place on trolley. Pick up book, open back cover, move pile of money out of the way, scan– Wait, what?

I closed the book. I reopened it. There was still a pile of money there. I flicked through it. $600. Now, I was only 18 at the time, and $600 was a small fortune. I closed the book again. I looked around. The library was mostly empty. None of the other staff were anywhere around. I replayed the last half hour in my head, trying to remember who’d returned the book.

When I found the little old lady, she was browsing the Agatha Christie novels. “Excuse me,” I said as I approached. She looked up. She looked about 70 years old. “Did you just return this book?”

“Yes,” she said, looking confused. “Is something wrong?”

“I think you may want the bookmark you left in the back of the book.” She took the book, opened it, and her eyes got as wide as saucers. Her hands started shaking. I was  worried she was going to pass out. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yes, dear,” she said. “Thank you so much. I always get out my rent money at the start of the week when I go to the bank, but I don’t like having it in my purse when I leave the house. So I hide it in a book. I forgot I’d put it in here. Thank you so much. If I’d lost this, I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent.”

I smiled, let her take her money, and then took the book back to the counter, content that I’d done a good deed. That afternoon she came back with chocolates and flowers for me.

That came in handy, because I was a struggling student working part-time at a library. I couldn’t afford dinner and chocolates make for a great celebratory meal.

2.

I have a fear of sleep.

One evening when I was two years old, my parents put me and my little brother to bed (he was about 8 months old), and then went next door to help the neighbours clean their house. We were a military family. They were a military family. That’s just what you do. Every half hour, Mum would come back and check on us kids, and then head back next door.

It must have been the sound of the door closing that woke me up. I remember getting out of bed because I was scared. I went into my parents room, but they weren’t there. I went to the lounge room, but they weren’t there. I searched the whole house, but my parents were gone.

In that moment, I knew that things had changed. It was just me and my brother. I would have to take care of us. I pushed a dining chair through the house into my brother’s room, next to his cot. He was sleeping peacefully. I sat down on the chair to watch over him. I cried a bit because I was scared, but I knew what I had to do.

That’s where Mum found me when she came back half an hour later. She sent me back to bed. And I’ve been afraid of sleeping ever since, just in case I wake to find that everyone I love is gone.

1.

It’s probably not obvious from my writing, but I am taller than average. I’m just over 6’1″ tall.  These days, I quite enjoy the extra attention that comes with being tall, although it wasn’t so great when I was a teenager. (I was over 6′ tall by the time I was 14.) But there are a few things that really, seriously suck about being tall. Rather than make a list of all the down sides (e.g.: trying to buy clothes, trying to fit in airplane seats, trying to be inconspicuous), allow me to share with you the absolute, number 1, most annoying thing about being tall.

People feel the need to point it out.

All the time.

As if I didn’t know.

There I am, walking through the shopping centre, and a random stranger will walk up to me and say, “Wow, you’re really tall.” This happens at least half a dozen times a week, and has done for the last twenty years. I’ve experimented with a number of replies:

  • “Really? Oh Gods, you’re right. How did that happen?”
  • “Thanks. You’re really short.”
  • “Thanks for noticing. Can you go tell that girl over there that she’s fat now?”
  • “Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. I got my body stretched in Thailand.”

And then there’s the follow-up statement: “You must play basketball.”

Now, not everyone adds this line. Only about 50% of people. So let me say, right here and now, that I do not play basketball. I don’t like basketball. I have no interest in basketball. (Other than to use it as a plot for a scary story.) Being tall doesn’t mean I play basketball any more than having fingers means I play the clarinet.

Actually, come to think about it, it’s a few years since anyone asked if I played basketball. Maybe people are starting to be more tactful.

Or maybe I just don’t look young enough to be a professional athlete anymore.

Thoughts?

Blogs I’ve Recently Discovered:

Here’s some of the most recent blogs I’ve discovered and fallen in love with. Make sure you check them out if you haven’t already. In no particular order…

Magnet for Foolishness

Mayfair Mum

nailsbails

Prawn and Quartered

ramblingsandrumblings

EDIT: In case it wasn’t clear (which it probably wasn’t), I’m forwarding the Versatile Blogger award to the above five blogs. Take part or not, depending on your own views and vows on chain blog awards.

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Filed under Random Stuff