Monday, April 29, 2013

The size of your average lounge.

A minor loss for us Linwoodians after the earthquakes was the local library. The building was badly damaged and the stock as well, and it stood empty for a good year. Then someone set fire to it. Brazenly, on a Saturday afternoon, while shoppers at the mall across the road watched it ablaze. Setting fire to buildings is an East side curse, really. So many empty buildings, so much long grass, so little time.

Meanwhile, courageous librarians had salvaged what they could and set up a mini library in a prefab attached to the city council service centre. Where they heroically struggled on. It was heroic, too. The new building was the size of your average lounge, neither heated nor cooled, and had only basic equipment. It was always packed. Books are for older people like me. Libraries are for free wi fi for people too poor to have their own, and for school kids to 'do homework' (which seems to involve mostly facebook, for some reason). And although it was stuffy and crowded and noisy, it was dry and safe. The staff were patient and caring and dedicated and needed to be.

The staff kept the stock rotating from other libraries, so you never knew what would be there. i almost always found something. i became appreciative of the restraints. Would there be a book about climate change? Not today, but there is a book about Mars which is almost as good. Suddenly i realise how little i know about Mars. It's great. i am always beginning.

Recently i went to another less damaged suburb and found the library there. Shelves and shelves of books! Everything working! Four whole books on the recent history of Britain! Overwhelming. i loaded myself up and am still plowing through my haul of marvels.

i am often surprised public libraries have survived in this age of neoclassicism. They are a weird nineteenth century throwback to an age when philanthropically minded public figures sought the moral and intellectual improvement of the working classes. Not too much improvement, mind, but enough to stave off revolt and make the workers more thoughtful and considerate. The idea of free informal learning for all seems to have stuck somehow.

Now the mini library has closed. A new bigger library has opened up in the shopping mall. The new post EQ normal takes another step.

1 comment:

  1. "i am often surprised public libraries have survived in this age of neoclassicism."

    Yeah, I convinced myself to give up a career in librarianship because I thought the profession had no future. I was (mainly) wrong, but I'm glad I got out.