Otherwise known as ‘the free bookshop’.
Appropriatly, I am writing this from within the safe haven of Beeston Library. It has just started raining and there are people sheltering under trees, or running away from the weather.
I am sat at a desk, writing this. As is tradition, it took me at least 5 minutes to connect to the wifi. Anyone who knows me knows that when I enter a library that isn’t the one I work in, I become ‘a patron’ which renders me useless in terms of navigating the building and knowing how to do things that in my job I am expected to help people with.
Further to my above point, I once had to pay off some fines. I KNOW. I’m sorry. I’m only human. Anyway, so I paid the fines, then walked away from the desk, forgetting that the library assistant still had my card. She had to call me back, and I rolled my eyes at myself, realising that this weird phenomenon had occurred yet again. I have since accrued even more fines, perhaps in an attempt to disguise from the people who work here that I am one of them, or perhaps because I forget to renew my books.
The Library Book
On the table in front of me is the book I’m currently reading, entitled The Library Book, which was as satisfying to borrow as you’d imagine. It’s an anthology of writing by various well-known authors all about libraries. It includes memoirs, essays, and fiction. Each of them offer a personal insight into the importance of libraries to society, and how libraries have shaped each writer’s life. I read it on the way to work, and it makes me feel proud and lucky to have the job I do, even if the library I work at is part of a university, rather than a local town or ‘public’ library. But still holds the same importance to its customers/patrons in terms of access to information. And wifi (if you can connect to it).
I currently have 6 books out on loan, two of them from the Central Library in Nottingham, which was a REVELATION. During the past couple of years, but particularly this one, I have really embraced Beeston Library, and every time I walk around exploring the shelves I find something I didn’t see last time. I find books that I have at home, and I think ‘so I didn’t need to buy it after all’ and this is what I want to write about next.
When I first started university, our tutor told us in our very first session that we should use the library. I think for some people, using the library means you are some kind of ‘nerd’, and god forbid that anyone should think that you actually do any studying while at university. He described it as a ‘free bookshop’, and I’ve thought of libraries as just that ever since. It’s a public building that costs nothing to walk into, nothing to join, and you have access to everything there. I sometimes forget this, in this age of consumerism and contracts. But I gravitate this way on Saturdays, sometimes to return books, sometimes to borrow, sometimes to escape the rain.
Someone has just tried to enter using the fire escape. But to be fair, that door did used to be the old entrance, and the point isn’t that he made a mistake, it’s that he’s here, he’s accessing this free public building. Maybe he’ll come and read the newspaper, get some water (yes there’s also free water), or just browse. Maybe he’ll try to exit through the fire escape, but I doubt it. A library is a learning environment, and now he’s found the way inside, his world just got bigger.
I don’t need to buy more books
I have SO MANY books at home. Most of them are unread, most of them I’m thinking of getting rid of as part of a mass de-cluttering myself and my mum are currently undergoing. I don’t need them. A lot of them are here, in this library. When I finally want to read them I can come here, library card in hand, and borrow them. It’s like when you’re shopping, let’s say, for a DVD. You buy it from one shop, then a few more shops down the line you find it cheaper and you wish you hadn’t bought it from the other place. Well imagine you bought a DVD with cash, money. Then you found a place giving it away for free. How would that feel? Actually, pretty amazing, cause you just discovered a bunch of stuff for free and now you can go there instead. I am probably preaching to the converted, but I just want to express the fact that I’m borrowing books waaaay more than I’m buying them, and that feels great.
…is the year I got my library card. It’s pretty battered, but there were years during which I never even looked at it, let alone used it. It’s got a dolphin on it, and the library assistants probably get a kick out of seeing me with it. They offered me a new one, because this one is so old, but I refused. I like that it’s old and now well-used. I don’t know what kind of designs they do these days for library cards, and maybe one day I will want to change it, but for now this one works fine, and I love that I chose the dolphin over any other designs. It reflects the fact that when I was younger animals were everything to me, I loved them then like I love books now. My library card brings those two aspects of myself together in the most wonderful way.
Home & Work
Whether or not I realised it when I was younger, libraries are a kind of home. Anyone is welcome here, and the librarians/assistants are always happy to help. I am so lucky to work in a library, and at the time of writing, yesterday was one year exactly since I got offered a job in the library I now work at. I remember that moment so vividly. I had to hold on to my seat. I was bursting with happiness. I’d never felt this about a job before, ever. Jobs were always mixed in with anxiety, and I’d not found one that didn’t give me anxiety just to be there. Except this one.
Everyday I get to help people, have conversations with people, learn things, discover books. Just yesterday, I had someone say ‘thank you for all your help’, and it reassures me that I am doing something worthwhile, and helping people with anything they need. I’m not trying to sell anything, I’m not trying to get anything out of people, I’m there to be there for people. I feel at home in that role, and in the library generally. I still get a burst of happiness when I’m put on shelving, and I still smile when I remember I work there, and how I never imagined that I could have this kind of life.
“Inspire Culture” is the name the local libraries exist under, and it couldn’t be more accurate. I’ve found inspiration here today to be able to write this, and every person who has been here today would have found something different. Yes, even the toddler who was crying and screaming ‘I WANT TO GO HOME!’.
The rain has stopped and I’m hungry, but before I leave I’ll have another look around. I’ll pick out books in my mind that I’ll borrow another day, and as I scan the shelves I’ll have a look of disbelief on my face that I, and everyone else in this town, has access to it all. To the library assistants, I might be someone they recognise. That person who wanders in most Saturdays, takes books, then wanders back out. But they decided to stay today and do some writing. Hopefully this means the library assistants know that I can connect to the wifi unaided, and that I’m not always a bumbling, clumsy, bookish nerd who acquires fines and abandons their card.
It’s all part of the person I am. The one who enjoys and uses libraries, and the one who helps others to do the same. Hopefully this post will inspire you to visit your local library soon, and borrow a few books. They’re free you know. Seriously.
And now it’s raining again, let the browsing begin.
P.S. The rain was so fast I was pretty much stranded in the library for a good 10 minutes (I’m not complaining) and I found a whole new section in which I found a book called How to Play the Piano by James Rhodes. In the same section was a bunch of sheet music books. It’s all here. We are so lucky.
P.P.S. I wasn’t joking about the rain