I was devastated when I thought I had lost my library card. Yes, I have the number memorized – that card and its number are as important to me as my Social Insurance Number, my telephone number or my bank account number; all of which I also have memorized. Frankly, it seems odd to me that others wouldn’t have their library card number memorized too. But having the number memorized only helps when reserving books online. It doesn’t help when I visit the library in person. So I went to the library to get a new card. My new card is a plastic white card with a navy coloured edge and multi-coloured descriptive words about the library.
Soon after I found my old card, so I returned to the library to see if they could transfer me back to my little cardboard red and white card with an 18 year old’s version of my signature on the back. The librarian didn’t laugh when I asked. She saw the distress on my face and clearly understood my relationship to my library card. She tried, but unfortunately it was not to be. So I use my new library card, with a number I do not know.
I still carry my old card around in my wallet. It’s important for me to have it. All the library books I ever borrowed are on that card. It’s one of the few possessions I have that cost me nothing, that means the most.
I am sure many of you grew up with wonderful librarians, but my junior public school truly had the best. Mrs. Marnie Clark, a tall, lanky woman, with kinky red brown hair would sit and read us exciting stories using voices and props to make the entire book’s characters and action come to life. She knew exactly where to find any book, about anything you could possibly imagine and could easily suggest what to read next. To a 5 year old book lover – she had magical super powers.
In my early 20s when I moved to Pasadena to study theatre, one of the first things I did was head to the closest library to get a library card. I didn’t have any mail or ID with my new address, but the librarian saw how important it was for me to be able to use their library and gave me a card. I used that card almost daily; to get books for school, to borrow books I found at the bookstore I knew I couldn’t afford to buy, and for when I found unexpected titles that interested me. Even when I owned my own bookshop – I still used the library. When we hosted book club I would pick up a copy of our current read at the nearby library so as not to use one of the in store copies and I even encouraged those attending book club to visit he library if they weren’t able to buy a copy from me.
Libraries are amazing meeting places. A vital community spot for EVERYONE – all shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities. There is so much to do at the library. You’re welcome to just come and spend time, flip through a magazine and to get cool when it’s hot outside, or to get warm when it’s cold. Libraries play host to children’s story time, movie afternoons, writing groups, author events and a variety of education programs, along with computers and audio systems available for use. And libraries are moving into the 21st century with the addition of e-books to their catalogue – although not without its issues http://www.fairpricingforlibraries.org/. In fact, you can borrow an e-book directly through your computer so you never have to leave home and can still visit the library (virtually). Most importantly libraries have lots and lots and lots of books to read. And they’re free – unless you’re like me and have a terrible habit of returning books late.
If you think about it, a library really is kind of like having your own personal bookstore but without any expectation of having to buy something (or leave with anything at all).
On May 20, 2015 the Toronto Public Library opened its 100th branch. I have decided that I am going to visit all of the branches and document my journey. I recently came across this wonderful passport created in celebration of all of the city’s branches. Maybe I’ll get one for myself and take it along for the ride.
I hope there is a public library nearby for you to visit. And if by chance you don’t have a library card at all, message me. After I recover from the shock, I am sure we can easily remedy that
Here are a few other interesting links about libraries: