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Thoughts on Libraries


I’ve been a lover of books for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it was my older sister’s avid reading of them that first prompted the interest—we competed in almost everything. Or perhaps it was the strong creative streak flowing through my being that caused me to embrace both the true and imaginary; or my mum and dad who always seemed willing to read to us or tell us stories. My mum or dad took a picture of me when I was about three or four propped comfortably on a big brown cushion engrossed in a book from the library. I know it was from the library because I remember it being lost for quite a few days and then its joyous discovery in the bottom half of my brother’s Noah’s ark boat. Now how did it get there?! When I see my own daughter’s love of books and reading, it comes as no great surprise to me as she comes by it honestly.:-)
One inconvenience in India was the lack of libraries: there were no public ones that you could freely check books out of. I had made sure that we brought enough books with us so that we wouldn’t be completely starved in the literary sense and through the American and Canadian friends that we made, we were able to borrow and lend quite a bit; we pulled through. But by the time our time in India was drawing to a close, I was more than ready to explore the vast reserves of the public library once again.

readingReading a library book when I was pregnant with Aria

One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is find out where the public library is. Before even visiting Scotland, I was checking out what they had in the way of libraries. Finding a library in a different country can be a type of adventure. I don’t think I ever went to one in the four years I lived in Tecate, Mexico, but since it was a border town, we had access to the American one just across the border. My next move to a foreign country (besides the States, which hardly counts as “foreign”) was when I moved to Italy. In the first few days after we moved to Campobasso, one of the foremost things on both Brianna’s and my mind was to find a place where we could email. Neither of us had a laptop and the only way for us to connect with loved ones back home was through email. Well, in short order we discovered that the cheapest place to email was the library where we could purchase an hour for three quarters of a Euro (about 80 cents US at the time). We frequented that place at least three times a week, made friends with the employees, booked tickets for a lovely week with friends in N. Ireland, even borrowed books from their very small English selection tucked away up some stairs. It was also the place where we inadvertently met the vice president of the state of Campobasso through whom we got tickets to visit Campobasso’s lovely orchestra hall where we heard the Moscow Symphony Orchestra play. The library was a great place to meet people and Brianna probably could have gotten a boyfriend out of the deal as one of the employees was sweet on her and often let her email for free!;-)
After four months and our move to the tiny town of San Lorenzo in the North, we had to start from scratch as far as libraries were concerned. The town we lived in had a population of maybe 400 people and not even a grocery store, let alone any semblance of a library. But there were three nearby towns that we rode our old fashioned bikes (by the names of Mary and Strawberry Shortcake) to and we taught English in one of them. Brianna was in charge of the kids’ class and it was held down a very narrow cobblestoned alley, through a metal gate, and in the most charming library I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Libraries are facinating places anyway with their shelves full of books that are asking to be borrowed and read, but this one took the cake. The ceiling and low-lying beams were of some mellow wood that shone out warmly in the inviting light of the room; on the walls was the usual variety of artwork meticulously (or not) done by some child of elementary age, and the posters on the walls advertised new books and booksignings with imaginative artwork. It was a room that invited one in. Somehow it brought to my mind the Beavers’ house in Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I don’t remember there being much of an English section, but I did sit down at a long wooden table and tried my hand at reading Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit in Italian.
I love how libraries encourage reading in children. Even a child who is not as naturally attracted to reading can find books to spark their fancy with colourful illustrations and action adventures. I think that libraries help to develop a child’s creativity and imagination. It opens the mind to new ideas and ways of doing things, just like I imagine travelling to different cultures can do. I think governments should not overlook the power of the libraries that are in need of funding as being an inconvenience and something to be ignored as much as possible. Instead, they should really look into how libraries can help create individuals who, through the expansion of their minds, can really help a country to prosper and be concerned about things that really matter.
Really, I’m simply thankful that someone in history came up with such a great idea of sharing knowledge—perhaps it was the monks.

4 Responses to “Thoughts on Libraries”

  1. Brianna
    November 9th, 2006 09:39

    I haven’t thought of the charming library in Valvasone for quite some time. Thank you for the beautiful word picture that took me back in time.

    I wonder how Guido is doing…

  2. Rachel
    November 9th, 2006 16:54

    Ahh, Guido. He missed out on a gem.;-)

  3. Beth
    November 10th, 2006 00:01

    Aahhh!!! Books and libraries!!! I love them!!
    We’re on our way to Mexico and I dug out my San Diego library card again….to put it to use. Rachel I know the love of reading and books are so precious to pass on to our kids.

  4. Rachel
    November 10th, 2006 16:12

    I have library cards for Syracuse, Minneapolis, and San Francisco…just in case.:-)

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