Tuesday, January 30, 2024

My Love Affair with Libraries

I have a few addictions that are potentially expensive.  They are Reading, Listening and Watching.  Libraries have enabled me to discover a very big world without the expenses of other addictions.

I can't remember very much before libraries were a normal part of my life.  Probably my mother introduced me.  Oshawa was my home town and a big benefactor was R.S. McLaughlin who donated lots of money and one of his projects was the McLaughlin Library within walking distance of my home.  

My father moved to Haliburton a rural tourist town that when I first went there had no library or at least none I was aware of.  By my last year of high school someone took what is remembered as a railroad car and brought in some books for loan.

At university I was surprised to learn the library was another McLaughlin project.  At university the library was also seen as a study area with literally hundreds of cubicles for study.  The books tended to be ones good for student essays.  

After graduation I went through a series of jobs that took me to many different cities and didn't really settle down.

Going to libraries was a favorite place to eat my lunch which often gave me a chance to read newspapers and magazines.  At one point I had three library cards--for Burlington, Hamilton and Wentworth overlapping with memberships in Etobicoke and Oakville, borrowing books, music and films.  McMaster Library for a research project (basketball book)

Libraries provided musical opportunities. Not so much for popular music, but really opened me up to foreign music that became a major part of listening.  At one time I decided to check opera and was able to borrow from the Etobicoke Library.  That effort turned to be a lifetime interest.  Musical concerts were often presented.  

In the last decade  several libraries started declaring books of the year that involved discussions and a generous number of copies.  Burlington sponsored “The Beauty of Humanity” which made me very curious about Pho soup that I learned to love.   I tried to make it a practice to read all of these special selections.The libraries have kept up with the time.  I took some lessons on social media from the Burlington Library.  E books actually were easier to read and gave more opportunities   The Hamilton library employed one man who was an expert at fixing e readers.  They have moved with the times--ebooks, audio downloads.  I am learning that streaming services are competing for DVD's.

Libraries also provided opportunities to listen to authors in person.  I have been fortunate to hear Robert J. Sawyer, Gary Barwin, Gwynne Dyer and Jian Ghomeshi,  One author had historical significance, Ziauddin Yousafzai who was the father of Malala.  On one occasion called the Human Library  I was fortunate to have a one on one with Lawrence Hill who had written two award winning books I had bought.

When I retired I volunteered to help immigrants practicing English in the library.  While supposedly helping them I learned a bit about their countries, their perspective as immigrants and surprising other facts.. 

Another way I helped pay back my debt to libraries was when making deliveries for The Rider, a horse newspaper I sold ads for.  I was able to offer current free copies.  Libraries included Brantford, Georgetown, Acton, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton including copies for branches.  I am sure some horse riders were pleased to keep up with the news, but perhaps better would be to catch some potential riders.

The Covid19 Pandemic was most annoying as it has restricted access.  For a day or so my local library was completely closed, although there was some access to their website.  Then we were able to pick up reserved materials at the front door.   Then were allowed in with masks and a limited amount of time limiting browsing.  Fines were eliminated which meant circulation was slowed.  Things are not quite normal, but much better.  Some were used to fight the pandemic with vaccinations and gave us cards to certify our current vaccination record.  With climate change our local library has been designated a cooling and warming center. 

Libraries are evolving  with the concept of knowledge being freely distributed.  Students with computers at home have a real advantage over those who don't.  Most libraries provide access to computers.  Libraries help make up some of the gap.  This also helps adults. 

Libraries benefit the whole community.  

The photo at the top is of a mural by Conrad Furey in the central branch of the Hamilton Public Library.

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