For the love of local libraries

For the love of local libraries
Picton Reading Room, Liverpool. No longer my local library 😥

When we lived in Poland, one of my big struggles was being able to find books to read. I didn’t learn enough Polish to even read a children’s book, just enough to be able to have polite interactions in shops and to be able to lead sung worship in both English and Polish (po Angielsku i po Polsku). And, I didn’t want to buy a bunch of books because we would only be there a year. [1]

One thing we were grateful for was that the local library did have a small selection of books for both kids and adults in English. And we made as much use of that place as we could.

Now that we’re back in the U.K. I’ve finally been able to take advantage of a library where I at least know the language that the books are in. Particularly as I try to be responsible with buying books (there are so many books to read and only so much money), being able to support an institution that is there to help people who have no access to buying books is a privilege.

What’s been so nice, though, is two things:

1. They learned who I was really quickly

I’ve popped into the library fairly regularly since finally getting my card. But I was only there for my second visit when they knew who I was. Life in a big city brings with it an anonymity similar to what you’d find online. But here, in a small town, everyone knows everyone.

For some, that’s considered a downside. As a newcomer to this place, it’s a welcome break from always being a stranger.

2. They always have what I need, sort of

Something that I always failed to take advantage of in the past was the simple fact that libraries tend to be a part of a network. A small, community library like this will only have so much space and so much budget. They have to cater to what people tend to look for when they are a certain age and want to read a book. That means the vast majority of the books are detective and crime dramas.

But, because ministry books are quite taxing to read, I’ve been trying to make an effort to keep some aspect of reading as a leisure activity. Something that is fun and relaxing. Lately, that’s meant reading people like Roger Deakin and Laurie Lee, Robert Macfarlane and Nan Shepherd. Those books are rarely available at my library, but they’re usually somewhere in the network.

That’s meant that I’ve been able to indulge in all these books, books that I can’t afford to buy right now, for free. Sure, I may have to wait a couple of days before I can read them but I’m reading other books in the meantime.

also...

Whenever I pop in, there’s a group of toddlers and their mums at a small playgroup singing songs. We used to help out with a group like that when we lived in Liverpool. It’s a nice little hit of nostalgia as I pack my books away into my backpack before cycling away.

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I still did buy too many from the secondhand, English bookshop on Puławksa. ↩︎