It’s hard to pick up a newspaper at the moment without an article talking about how ordinary people are reining in their spending. And almost without fail, someone says something like “I’ve stopped buying books and magazines and started going to library”, as if that is something you only do as a last resort.
Well, that’s one thing I’ve always done, ever since I can remember, wherever I’ve lived, at every stage of my life, no matter my income. I love reading, and read more books than I could ever afford. I’ve always looked forward to my monthly trawl through the library.
My son said to me one day, “Mum, you get a funny look when we go to the library”. And it’s true! I can feel my brain switch on to hunter/gatherer mode as I walk through the doors of the library, to be confronted with thousands of possibilities. I can’t wait to see what gems I’ll pick up that day.
One reservation a lot of people have about libraries is that they can’t find the books they want to read. The secret of successful library borrowing is to have no fixed idea about particular books. You need to be flexible. I go in with a general idea about my interests, and just go with the flow. I’ll borrow 8 to 10 books, and on average, a few will be glance-and-flickers but I’ll also pick up some great books. That said, sometimes I’ll look for particular books I’ve read or heard about , or I’ll go to the bookshop just before I go to the library, and see if there is anything there I want to read. Then I’ll go around the corner to the library and look for that particular book. You’ll be surprised how often it is there.
It doesn’t always work though. Sometimes I lose my library mojo, like my visit about two weeks ago. Despite close scrutiny of the shelves for about an hour I just didn’t find anything I wanted to read. I resorted to re-borrowing some previous favourites.
But yesterday, I hit library pay-dirt. Call it magic, luck or serendipity, within ten minutes I was in possession of 6 books I’d been wanting to read:
“Dead Aid - How Aid is Not Working and How there is Another Way for Africa” by Dambisa Moyo. I saw Ms Moyo interviewed by Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report and immediately wanted to read this.
“The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” by Alain de Botton - the latest by one of my favourite writers.
“The Slap” by Christos Tsiolkas. An Australian writer with an enthusiastic following and good reviews for this book.
(All these books are recently published and I am the first borrower! Love that!)
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” by Paul Torday - vaguely remember reading about this book a while ago. The blurb includes a recommendation by Marina Lewycka, author of “Two Caravans” and “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian”, two of my own recommendations.
“Queen Camillla” by Sue Townsend - Sue Townsend’s books (she wrote the Adrian Mole series) are always good for a laugh, and a satirical look at modern day Britain.
“The Time We Have Taken” by Steven Carroll - This won a major Australian award last year - perhaps the Miles Franklin ?
My only problem now is which one to read first.
It seems such a shame that libraries are seen as places you go to only when money is tight. Quite apart from the books I get to read, I see it as a way to mindfully consume. I can read as many books as I like from the library, but they are read again and again by others. Another way we can tread lightly.
Any other library lovers out there?