my first library

As this unit draws to a close I started thinking about my first experience of a library. It’s interesting how things in life come full circle. The first library I remember going to was the Bundaberg Library and here I am working on an assessment that would design a new service for that that same library. Many things have changed in the 30 years since I first visited the library. For one, the Bundaberg library is no longer in the same building. When I was little the library was located in an old building that had once been a bank. (It’s now the city art gallery complete with a small exhibition space in what was once the vault!). My family were regular library visitors. It was always exciting because the library opened on a Thursday night…most unusual for a small Queensland town. It was also tres exotic to visit for a small child because (1) it had a ramp up to the front door and (2) it had a fountain outside made out of a big granite rock. To an 8 year old in the very early 80s these things were pretty exciting. Inside, everything was about the silence. The stacks were all very close together; it wasn’t a big space. But there was a designated children’s area, teenage fiction (which I delved into as I got older) and adult fiction and non-fiction. It was from here that I borrowed a lot of Sweet Valley High novels, the complete Fawlty Towers scripts, biographies of John Lennon, Winston Churchill and others, as well as doing research for my Ancient History assignments. I believe there may have been microfiche hidden away somewhere, but the catalogue was a card system and the nice ladies at the borrowing desk relished stamping the return date inside the front cover of your books.

There were no computers of any kind. There were no videos, dvds, cds or audiobooks. There were no attractive displays of new books, no posters advertising community events. The library was simply about books. How things have changed. Now the Bundaberg Library is housed is a specifically designed building, has branches at other places in the region, is full of backpackers checking their emails, retirees reading the newspapers, people poring over the DVD collection, kids and mums enjoying the activities with the children’s librarian and other such things. What has struck me as strange today is the infrequency with which I visit the library anymore. It played such a part in my formative years, yet I’m lucky if I go there once or twice a year. I feel bad about this, but access to university libraries and the world of digital information accessible from my desktop has superceded the experience of the community library. I think it’s something I need to rediscover.

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12 thoughts on “my first library

  1. Your first experience was lovely! Oddly enough, it seems rather similar to my own, even though you lived in Bundaberg and I lived in a seaside suburb of Brisbane.

    The first library I visited was the Sandgate branch of the Brisbane City council library, which was and still is in a small part of the Sandgate Town Hall. It was tiny, and only had a few stacks for adult fiction, non-fiction, and audiobooks. My favourite section was the children’s and teenage section, because it encompassed the largest area of the library and was covered in bean bags. I devoured most of the books in that section and kept coming back every weekend. I was about 11 – prior to that I’d just visited the library at my primary school.

    It is rather sad that the library isn’t a bigger part of our lives now. Well, I say ‘our’ – I still go to my local library at least 3 times a month. I can’t seem to help myself. I often think books are more of an obsession than a hobby for me – I have 4 bookshelves in my bedroom, each overflowing with books. One of which is floor to ceiling. I think when I buy my first house, I’m going to have to turn a spare bedroom into a library.

  2. Awww memory lane!

    My first visit to a library was at the Maroubra Library in Sydney as a little girl ready for story time that my mother took me to. I remember having to walk up many many stairs that had a waterfall to the side of it that cascaded from the top all the way down of the building. It too had beanbags in the kids section.

    I’ve not been there for a good 30 yrs! Ouch at my age, haha…

    My mother interestingly enough, has kept the tradition of going to story time at Maroubra Library but with the grandkids these days…

    Rebecca, what a brilliant idea for a bedroom! My office / lounge room / library is all combined. I’m glad its a big room though as I too have a multitude of books on shelves that spill over somewhat…

    πŸ™‚

  3. Your room does sound lovely though, Fiona. And thanks! I cannot wait until I’m able to afford to buy my own place so I can make my dream a reality. If you look at my blog, I’ve actually posted about a favourite home library of mine. The photos of it are simply gorgeous.

  4. Ooo Bec, cool – I’ll take a look shortly.

    My brain has just been in creative mode due to Kate and her additional bonus points possibility and am about to message her my nominations…

    I’ll check your blog when done ! πŸ™‚

  5. I’ve got an all in one room for books, lounge, study etc. Sadly my spare room is a music room. How I would love a proper study/library! Interesting how those first library experiences stay in our memories isn’t it? Clearly, they made an impact on all of us πŸ™‚

  6. Most definately impacted in me Wendy. I have been an avid reader all my life because of what my mother exposed me to at Maroubra library to begin with…

    She also had me stuck into the ABC programs such as Worzil Gummage *spell*; Grange Hill; Red Dwarf; The Goodies; Benny Hill (when I was a tad older in my teens lol); Dad’s Army and, and, and…

    Hmm. I’m feeling a tad old remembering those – hehehe…

    Mum did it !

  7. My first library was the public library down the hill from my school. My younger sisters and I would wait there for half an hour or so most afternoons after school for my mum to finish work.

    I remember it as an interesting and safe space to be, and it is definitely how I got so into reading as a child – I had pretty much read the entire young adult section and moved on to adult by the time I left primary school. Spending so much time there is also how I got the idea early on that public libraries are not just quiet places full of books, they are also family and community orientated spaces, full of activity.

    I do remember there being computers, perhaps three or four fairly basic units for catalogue searching only, but I don’t recall ever really using them, I just browsed the shelfs. Yes, times have changed.. I was in my local library today and when the librarian announced that the internet was down, half the patrons left!

  8. What a scene…I’m imagining a scene as disgruntled internet users leave the library en masse! It’s lovely to hear how so many people find the library a safe, comforting place to spend time and feel part of a community….even pre-technology πŸ™‚

  9. After reading your entry, I remembered my happy memories of childhood. Everyday I went to the National Library in Vietnam with my father, grow up reading fairy tales and fables. At that time, I knew that it is the place where I wished to work in the future. Although the importance of librarianship has not been fully appreciated by public in my country,I strongly hope with the knowledge to be attained from useful units I have learned, I will creatively and directly contribute to the development of Vietnam’s library sector in general in a very near future.

  10. What a beautiful memory to have and share with us! It sounds like with your inspiration you are going to be at the start of something new and exciting in Vietnam. That’s wonderful πŸ™‚

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