I stepped into my local library recently after two years of absence. I went in to renew my library card and to have a look around at the selection. I have been reading mostly the poor selection of books on Overdrive and buying other books that I wanted to read. It was almost a religious experience going into the library and seeing all those wonderful books I had been reading for the last twenty years in one place.
Many of you may have noticed that libraries across America have come under attack in recent weeks. A librarian in Wyoming of all places was recently sacked from her job because the local board didn't like some of the books that were turning up on the shelves. Libraries are a reflection of our times. Librarians aren't ‘book cops’ and have little or no control over the books that arrive on their shelves. What is morally unacceptable for one person is the holy grail for another!
My local library is neither the best nor the worst library in French Canada. The English language section is relegated to a relatively small space in the basement of the library in Quebec City where I live. The bibliothèque favours its mainly French language readers, but the English section still has a good collection of books. There are crime thrillers galore, psychological novels, biographies, historical fiction and what have you from dozens of authors that I like to read. Few, if any of these books, are to be found on Overdrive.
It is a wonderful feeling to just walk down the aisle of the library, reading off the names of your favourite authors. I have probably read at least half of the books on these shelves over a period of some 25 years! Reading has always been a favourite pastime of mine and has helped keep me sane. I would be bored stiff if I had to rely on Netflix or Amazon Prime for my daily dose of drama. So to see all 'my books' sitting on their shelves was a mind-blowing experience.
Wow! A new Ian Rankin, a Peter Robinson, a John Sandford, a Michael Connelly and the list goes on. Libraries are where kids get their first rush of emotion and experience life outside their own lives from reading J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, C. S. Lewis, Enid Blyton, J.M. Barrie, etc. It's where storytelling takes centre stage for most people.
I remember my mother returning from the local library with her ‘escapist literature’ as she called it, three or four books every couple of weeks. She loved to read and was an inspiration to me when I decided to become an author and writer of screenplay. You probably remember the bookshelves of your youth: the no-nonsense librarians, the Dewey decimal classification on old index cards, the bookmobiles lumbering down the street inviting you to climb on board and the selection of dog-eared paperback novels laid out in the lobbies of family hotels during holidays. We all bear a nostalgic attachment to the libraries of our youth. Long live libraries wherever we find them!
*Originally posted in August 2023