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.