Sunday, September 25, 2011

Remembering the Library

I miss libraries.  When I was a kid, going to the library (going, in fact, to this library) was a treat.  It was a place that seemed magical.  The library moved buildings when I was five, but what I remember about this particular library is that it had giant beanbag animal pillow-chairs (the one I thought of as mine was a ladybug) and one time, some kid tried to steal Babe, one of my favourite dolls* - and, of course,  it was full of books - an almost unfathomable number of books.

In high school, Rhiannon and I went to the library fairly frequently.  We would head downtown to hang out, and, after visiting the dollar store and otherwise empty mall, we usually ended up there.  Later in high school Vicky (my other sister) and I would to go to the new library** on Wednesdays.  We would rent books, movies, manga, CDs, everything we could, really, on every subject imaginable.  We would stay there for hours and often leave with back-breaking piles of reading material.

And of course there was always the research.  Search engines these days are like magic.  You type in a question and voila! a thousand, a hundred thousand, millions of answers just appear to you.  It's really amazing and I have to say that I feel lucky, as a writer, to have been born into a time when research is not half so labour intensive as it once was, when we can focus more on the story part of our stories - but there's magic in using books too.  There's something spectacular, when out of all the books piled on the table, you stumble across the exact piece of information you were looking for, the interesting fact that will alter the outcome of your book, that thing that's been missing.  There's something wonderful about the hushed, almost rain-like sounds of people around you turning pages.

Even when I lived on my own and had nothing to distract me at home, even if I had no research to do, I would still occasionally go to the library to write.  There's something about libraries - maybe it's being surrounded by all those books.  So much inspiration and so many words, just floating around.

There was no library where I lived in B.C., and for some reason, perhaps because I feared disappointment, I never went to the one in Jasper.  The library where I am now is ok.  It's a decent sized building and the staff are friendly and helpful (a rarety, in my experience), but I don't spend a lot of time there.  I don't know why; it's just one of those things, I guess.

I would love to go back to weekly library visits and hours-long research sessions in the library.  I think sometimes we let life get in the way of the things that make it life.  Like libraries.  

*I was about three when this happened, and when the girl's mother informed me that she had a similar doll at home, all I could think was, "Whatever, Lady, just don't let it happen again."

**It's been nearly 20 years and I still think of it as the new library

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