Check It Out

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I got a library card last week. I’ve been meaning to get one for while, having moved to a new city some time ago, but never really found the time.

It’s not like I haven’t been reading; I brought a box of books with me, and have picked up a lot of new material along the way (I’m a sucker for a used bookstore), but it had been a while since I’d done something as normal, or as regular, as dropping into a library. Since moving, I’ve replaced all the documents required when you arrive in a new province, and had even renewed my passport, but in doing all the stuff that needed to be done, I never found the time to do what I wanted to do.

A library card, in so many ways, is like a passport. Once in your possession, the card can take you wherever you want to go, allowing you to explore foreign countries, meet new characters, and explore the world without ever leaving your city.

As a kid, regular bus trips to the library were commonplace. I learned very early that if you want to know anything, if you want to learn about something, you could always find the answers in a book from the library. I remember when the Brandon Public Library moved from the dusty, musty basement of a historic building to expansive (by the city’s standards) sun-drenched premises.

During University, the library was a place to duck out of the hustle and bustle of the campus, sequester yourself in the quiet under the guise of research, and maybe even catch the occasional nap.

As a young parent, Saturdays were library day with my daughter, where she’d select the maximum amount of books (and many times the same favorites) for her pre-bedtime reading. Books were more than a treat.

In Winnipeg we celebrated the opening of the Millennium Library, a magnificent structure with comfortable places to read, and functional Wi-Fi workspaces where you could plug in or tune out. Just as comforting, but in such a different way, was the Cornish branch; the same library my father used to ride his bicycle to in his younger years. The breadth of the selection at the Cornish was never as great as the downtown facility, but the room spoke to me.

All libraries provide a similar sort of comfort. Often, as an excuse to get away from my regular writing desk, I’d haul my laptop or scribbler down to a Winnipeg library and work away, inspired by a new setting. I’ve written short stories based on what I saw at the library, characters have been developed, or described, from the people I would see wandering through the stacks or waiting in line.

I’d also find three or six books from the holdings, usually an author I’d never read (or heard of), a novel a friend had recommended, or a volume of poetry from one of the masters. I always, still to this day, keep some kind of poetry book in my packsack, a way to take a break from the everyday and become motivated by someone else’s words. You can always find poetry in any library. You can find, pretty much, everything.

The beauty of a library is that it offers so much, and thanks to Melvil Dewey and his unparalleled system for classifying every subject known to mankind, you can generally find what you are looking for. And more. It’s amazing how the Dewey Decimal System, a program created more than 140 years ago, using digits, few letters and a well-place decimal point, still functions supremely well in this digital age.

Libraries have adapted through the years, as movies, music, and magazines have all been added to the collections. Along with the histories and mysteries, there is always something that can take your mind away from the day-in-day-out stuff we all deal with. The price is always right.

Library cards are free, but they are infinitely valuable. Time with a book is always well spent.

One response

  1. My thoughts exactly! The sad part for me though is that 90% of the “tweens” I teach regard paper books as ancient artifacts that people were forced to use before the invention of the Internet and Wikipedia! Call me old fashioned but I will always prefer paper pages.

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