Library and Information Week, held from 21-27 May 2018 with the theme “Find yourself in a Library” aims to raise the profile of libraries and information service professionals in Australia. It gives libraries and information services the opportunity to showcase their resources, facilities, events, contacts and services through different programs and events to the community. (ALIA)
Childhood was not a wholly magical time for me.
Oh, I had loving parents and a warm, supportive family, and all my material needs taken care of, but that, alas, was not the end of the story.
I was one of those people who, for reasons known only to my tormentors, which to greater or lesser degrees was a near-universal selection of my male peer group, was bullied from pillar to post, my birthday party invitations ignored, play dates scorned and any sense of inclusion put the torch before the ashes were stomped into the ground and then stomped on some more.
One of my great escapes from all that torment, school holidays and weekends aside, were books – they gave me, as they have given so many people, an escape from a less than perfect reality – and as the son of a Baptist minister and a part-time pharmacist who were not poor but not exactly flush with cash, the place to get them was my local council-funded library.
Now most small town libraries while good, aren’t always supplied with a wide and luxuriant assortment of titles, but somehow Alstonville Public Library, set up in the middle of a non-purpose built large hall in the community centre and sitting in a town of not quite 5000 people, had an endless assortment of wonderful, brilliant, enticing books.
I honestly cannot recall ever reaching the library, which was staffed by lovely people who loved books like I did and were only too happy to encourage my voracious love of reading – between this library and my school ones, I averaged well in excess of 100 books a year; yep, being friendless and bullying affords you lots of reading time – and not finding something to read.
True, birthdays and Christmas and pocket money afforded me books of my own to keep (I have the vast majority to this day), but the bulk of the books I discovered with delight and rapturous expectation (Yes I am an extrovert!) came from the library and gave me the chance to read far more titles and experience far more literary adventures than I could have otherwise afforded.
One of my most favourite finds, and honestly I still don’t understand how a small library on the far north coast of NSW came to have such a Scandinavian focus, were the Agaton Sax books by Nils-Olof Franzén which centred on a pleasantly-plump Swedish detective and newspaper proprietor who, with the help of his dachshund Tikkie and his Aunt Matilda tracked all kinds of criminals such as Octopus Scott and Julius Mosca.
I never saw the books in stores but thanks to my precious, wonderful library, all 10 English-translated volumes were mine, temporarily anyway, and I delighted in Franzén’s deliciously clever, offbeat prose, his inventive characters and his love of the mischievously absurd.
So greatly did these books impact me, and so much a part of my childhood were they, along with hundreds and hundreds of other books, that to this day I associate going to the library with them.
But the truth is, the library, this beautifully-run temple to books and learning that I adored wandering around in for as long as mum or dad would wait for me, granted me rare and privileged access to a host of amazing, escapist books which I would have otherwise missed out on.
I like to think that my gift for writing – I am a blogger, creative writer and content writer as an adult – was given a huge hurry-along in its skill level and expansiveness by the sheer variety of books my library exposed me to, and which I devoured in a volume that would have exhausted my budget long before I was ever sated (which, to this day, has never happened; there is always so much more to read!.
So thank you libraries of my youth and my present for opening doors, plunging me into marvels worlds and taking me on endlessly-immersive adventures, and for giving me the gifts of words, knowledge and a love of writing that continues to satisfy in ways I cannot even describe or imagine to this day.