The oldest public library in the English speaking world is said to the Chetnam library in Manchester which opened in 1653. Libraries have changed a great deal since those times. These days one can access so much more than just books. Libraries enable people to access information and entertainment easily, regardless of financial standing. Lady Bird Johnson said, ‘Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.’
My love of libraries goes back a long way. When I was about seven I used to get a package of books from the Country Lending Service each month. My mother and I would pick the parcel up from the railway station. I was always excited as I untied the string, unwrapped the brown paper and removed the precious books from their protective wrap of corrugated cardboard. I also borrowed books from the school library, carrying them to and from school in a special cloth bag with a pattern of cherries on blue stripes that Mum had made.
By the time I was at high school there were more community libraries. I loved going to the library to select novels and books on a variety of subjects. I liked to borrow cookery and craft books. One time I borrowed a book because it had a chapter on ventriloquism that caught my attention. It wasn’t that topic which ended up being important to me. There was also a chapter on making string puppets. This became a hobby that took up most of my spare time for a couple of years.
The school library was also a place of education, entertainment and comfort for me. When I moved to a different school during my teenage years I found I had no friends for a time. I would head to the library during lunch break and read.
As an adult I continued to get much pleasure from reading and borrowing books from the library. As time passed libraries began to offer much more than just books. One could borrow magazines, cassettes and videos as well. These days there are DVDs, CDs and other media. In South Australia the recently introduced One Card system allows one to borrow from any library in the state which means one has access to literally millions of items. How exciting is that? Other states may have a similar system. I get a thrill when an email informs me there is an item I have put a hold on waiting at the library for me. I understand what Jorge Luis Borges felt when he said, ‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’
The library enables me to borrow so many items on different topics and everything is free. This means I can access all sorts of things I couldn’t afford to buy. It feels like a treat to borrow from the library and it doesn't put any stress on my tight budget. I can try music and books which are different from what I usually go for and it doesn’t matter if I don’t like the items I borrow. It also saves my house from getting cluttered with lots of books, DVDs and other media.
A bonus is I often run into friends at the library so it has a social plus as well. I can pick up information on what is happening in the community. The library and its services are a source of great pleasure to me and it’s all free.
I am 73 have been reading since the age of seven. At least one hundred and twenty books a year, some years due to illness, hospitalisation etc. the amount alters more or less. What a wonderful score over my lifetime. WOW