It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it. ~Oscar Wilde
Many years ago, when I first moved to the island, I was delighted to find we had a library. An island library. Just down the road. I didn't have to travel miles on public transport juggling 20 + books, 4 bored children & the month's shopping to boot. Those who know me very well would have been worried for the children & groceries, suspecting I would ditch children & groceries & just keep the books.
Our beloved council bragged at how it provided us with our very own library. Let me take you on a tip down memory lane to the library council provided. The *library* was a small room at the back of the community hall & when I say small trust me, it was small. It was a hallway wide; the width of 2 doors, & about 12 feet long. The metal shelving went from floor to ceiling around three sides of the room. The 4th end held the librarian's desk & the actual door. To reach the children's section my children had to slide round behind the librarian's chair & scrabble on the floor to dig through the books wedged into the shelving. Anything I wanted was invariably out of reach, requiring gymnastic manoeuvres on uncertain furniture. I'm sure council thought no~one ever borrowed anything from this horror house. On wet days a line would form out the door & along the path because the room could literally hold no more than 1/2 a dozen people ~& then only if we squeezed up tight. On humid summer days the fan blew all the library paperwork to the ceiling but only sluggishly stirred the muggy air. The air was like a blast from hell &, sweat streaming, did not encourage anyone to linger over choosing their reading material. Forget sitting. There was no room for anyone to sit.
We didn't even have our own books. Actually we still don't. The books come on rotation from the mother lode in town & we invariably wait for anything that's popular. And yet, our dear librarian, a very wonderful lady who loves us to bits despite the fact we always seem to have her filling in paperwork for inaccessible books [or she hands me the paperwork & I fill it in for her to ratify ~ ssshhhh] lobbied for years for better housing. Council objected. There weren't even 1,000 permanent residents living here ~ & not all of those read ~ so why would we need better library facilities?
Islanders tend to be a quirky lot & jokes about the islands are many & unflattering but the simple fact is, per capita, we read more than any other part of the shire! Statistics prove it. Each month we go through a phenomenal amount of reading material for our population ~ & that includes our children's section. Not everyone reads, that's true, but those who do read with a vengeance!
Well a few years back Council upgraded us & moved the library into an unused brick house. We have computer access ~ one computer for the entire island but hey ~ that's an improvement on what we did have. The picture books are properly displayed in open shelving & there is a child sized table & fun bean bags. The bulk is childrens & adult fiction ~ which leaves those of us who prefer meatier fare still lobbying through inter~library loans for something to read. The non~fiction is 4 short lonely shelves on the back wall; YA gets 6 shorter shelves on the shortest wall of all. Star haunts the place. She has the rotation down by memory & when she knows the new books have hit the shelves she's on my case for a trip to the library. I think she thought Council was generous ~ but then one day, while waiting for choir, I took her to the mainland library. I don't think Star's recovered yet. She was livid.
Shelves & shelves & shelves of YA fiction. More shelves & shelves of YA non~fiction. The choices are endless. Star filled her library card & we lugged all these books round with us but Star had steam coming out her ears. She's listened to our librarian & I natter. She's heard the stats. She now suspects our council of throwing us the books no~one else wants to read & Star is on my case to leave a little earlier on Wednesdays so we can stop at the library on our way through.
At least we only have to lug the books one way. We can return them on island & they go back with the regular rotation but you gotta wonder. All the fuss & bother, song & dance about Queensland's numeracy & literacy levels & our council can't get it together to provide a really top~notch library for our kids. Not all of us want to read the latest Mills & Boone or Zane Grey ~ or have our kids devouring vampire epics.