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A Short Love Letter to Libraries

On National Libraries Day (February 4th) when we’re supposed to show our love for our local by visiting and getting out some books, I went to the pub and watched the Scotland vs England Six Nations match, which is pretty crap for someone who loves books and hates rugby. So I went all High Fidelity on the libraries – revisiting our old relationship and thinking about what I missed and what had changed. 

It’s been a while – nearly fifteen years, in fact. I’ve been too busy to Google you, and then too lazy to find out where your street address is in relation to the supermarket or the pub. I don’t know your opening hours, and most days I don’t even think of you. I guess on some level, I don’t really need you as much because I’m doing what I need to do and getting on with things. I can’t really imagine where you’d fit in, to be honest.

I know that sounds harsh, and I don’t want you to think it’s a reflection of how much I appreciate you.

I’m just older now. The appeal isn’t so obvious. People change.

Sometimes I wonder if you’ve changed, and how. It’s important to remember there’s no glory in being the one vintage collection in a digital world. People might call it ‘quaint’, but there’s a death rattle in that word.

I hope you have moved with the flow – updated with eBooks and computers. To let them see you’re not fading into the background like a forgotten great-aunt, withering quietly under a sharp gaze after you uttered the words ‘I remember when…’

I often wonder if you’re doing ok, or if you’re struggling like the bookshops. It might be worse for you, and sometimes I think if I look too closely it’ll break my heart and be just one more thing I can’t change in an industry that’s changing so quickly. I hope you’re getting the support you need, that’s all.

I’ve not stopped reading. In fact, I’ve been seeing Waterstones a bit. Blackwells even more. I know they’re more expensive, but they give me something you can’t, and something that becomes more important as you get older: permanency.

They’re not better – just different.

But then there are those moments where I remember how every weekend we used to drive to Kyneton and I’d spend hours running through your selection of Young Adult fiction. And the day when I realised I’d read everything I wanted to in that section and that Goosebumps no longer held the appeal of the predictably mysterious and I moved onto books with tiny type and a weight that meant I needed to lean it against a table to open it properly. Before the prescriptive school reading lists and the book club recommendations, you were freedom in millions of pages, and billions of words.

At a time when I didn’t know what I wanted, you gave me everything. I hope you’re still doing that for people.

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Felice Howden

Felice Howden had opinions before she knew what the word 'opinion' meant. She wrote for the publishing and ideas blog Socratic Ignorance Is Bliss, and has had short stories published around the place. She graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2008 with a degree in English and Philosophy, and now spends her time typing code and hatching brain eggs for the future of publishing in a major publishing house.

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