Thursday, May 12, 2005


I love the library

You know what continues to amaze me? Libraries. I love libraries. I love the idea of libraries. I love the fact that libraries have serious books and fun books and naughty books and children's books and reference books and comic books. I love tactile stimulation of the library, of walking between looming stacks, the smell of the books, the crinkle of plastic dust jackets, the fonts and colours on all the spines.

But mostly, I love that they are free.

Can you believe it? In this day and age of user fees, service charges, membership fees, subscription rates and monthly dues, the library continues to be absolutely free.

I love free. I love books. How could I not love the library?

I have the most wonderful memories of going to the library with my mom when I was young. We used to go every week, whether to the local branch or to the bookmobile. It wasn't long before I had read every single book in the astronomy section, in the paranormal section, and every book Judy Blume wrote, from Superfudge to Forever. (Yes, I've always had eclectic tastes in reading.) Each week, we'd both leave with a stack of half a dozen or so books, and each week we'd read every one.

Sometime during my high school and university days, I stopped using the library for pleasure and just used it for research. Then when I finally finished my degree in 1998, I stopped using the library entirely. It's just in the past few years that I've renewed my love affair with the library.

Ironically, it's technology and the Internet that brought me back. From the library's Web site, I can request a book and it will be retrieved from any branch in the city that has one available. The queue for holds is city-wide, which makes the queues much longer but also much quicker. The other day I was on Mimilou's blog and she was talking about having read Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake. I said to myself, "Self, you've been meaning to read that book for ages. Why don't you hop on over to the library site and reserve it while you're thinking of it?" So I did. And the nice library lady with the robotic voice called two days later and told me I had a book waiting for me. And it was a really good book, too!

Most importantly, though, I love going to the library with the boys. Tristan gets as excited about going to the library as he does about going to WalMart. (Um, yeah, I know. We'll talk about that another day.) Not only does he love getting new books, but he's discovered that they have Thomas the Tank Engine movies and DVDs. And Caillou. And Bob. And Franklin.

We're very lucky in that the kids' section of the Barrhaven library branch is huge - and completely self-contained on a separate floor from the rest of the library. What more could you ask for? Free books, free movies, and a place to run around and explore without irritating the rest of the world for a little while.