Tuesday 14 February 2012

In praise of libraries

I was asked by Susan Condon (@susancondon) to give my support to National Libraries Week. I'm late replying but here goes:

Terenure Library, Dublin, was my local when we were children. The children's library was in the front of the building and the adults library was behind.  Mum has always been a voracious reader. Dad used to complain about the weight of the beach bag on holidays. It always contained a large hardback book from the library.  The first few books I read were by Enid Blyton: I loved the Secret Seven. The brilliant Roahl Dahl was next to be discovered. However the happiest memory I have was when I was allowed to change my pink child's ticket to the blue adult library ticket. I felt so grown up. Mum always told us to have the books opened on the page for stamping and turned towards the librarian. Treating the librarian with due respect.

My interest in literacy really began in my teens. I suddenly came upon the realisation that books can change the way you think. Books can show you whole new worlds, transport you back in time, take you inside someone else's head. George Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm' made me think about politics and the world more critically. Oscar Wilde was witty and engaging, especially 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. 'The Lord of the Flies' by William Golding was disturbing but I wondered did he go too far in his hypothesis. However since becoming a mum and witnessing several party birthday parties for seven-year olds, I'm rethinking this one.

Later I became obsessed with the Second World War. I couldn't understand what made a whole race decide to wipe out another. I read 'The Diary of Anne Frank'  along with 'I am David' by Anne Holm. I'm still none the wiser as to the 'why' of the wars but I know that we need to remind future generations that these things happened and never let history repeat itself.

When I moved to Navan I joined the library there. Navan Library is simply wonderful. It's in the centre of the town overlooking the beautiful St Mary's Church. It is not an aesthetically pleasing building to look at. The library was promised a facelift but it never materalised. However inside, the library is treasure trove for book lovers. There's a huge section of books by Irish writers. The childrens section is welcoming with bright little chairs and tables.  They have books for all ages neatly laid out. There is also a special series of books with CD's for adults who want to learn to read or improve their reading called 'The Clipper Series.'  Every day teenagers fill the room studying or using the computers. 

Every Summer the library run a programme to encourage children to read.  This year it was called 'Circus Stars.'  The child gets a sticker with every book they read and if they read any six books over the summer they're invited to a party.  The stickers had special smells, one even smelt of rabbit poo.  My son thought that was the coolest thing ever.

But there is one little happening that made me genuinely love the library and their staff.  A few years ago when I was studying Montessori, I had to write an essay on one of Maria Montessori's comtemporaries.  I think it was Edouard Seguin.  There is not alot of information left about him.  I asked a librarian to see if she could find any books by him or about him.  She found a book 'in the back,'  and it looked ancient.  When I looked at the library's label at the front of the book I saw that it had not been lent for fifty years.  What other treasures are hidden in there???

Long live the libraries, their staff and the treasure trove of books.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this Carol. I'd forgotten about getting your books stamped as nowadays I either borrow via my eBook or self-check-out which just scans the closed book. I also loved 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. I thought the stickers for children were a great idea, but, to be honest, having rabbits ourselves for the last thirteen years, maybe I wouldn't be too enthused to the get the one smelling of rabbit poo . . .