libraries, books, and the things they do to you

8 Sep

Since I’ve been blogging, I keep reading anecdotes about libraries and bookstores; the people you meet, the random life changing events that can happen whilst perusing the shelves.

I LOVE this.

Libraries and bookshops have had a big impact on me, both in terms of my ‘inner world’ such as thoughts and goals, and my ‘outer world’ as in real life conversations and experiences.

Here are a few that come to mind:
Back in Grade 12 I visited my friend Katrina at her home when she had glandular fever. I’d never been to her place before, but she lived in a little house on a random country road, the middle of nowhere. No animals or anything, just a house in the middle of a lot of land. At the door I met her mother, who looked kind of like she really didn’t care about her hair and clothes. Of course I noticed this, because I was in Grade 12. Then I saw their personal library: bookshelves from floor to ceiling in several rooms, completely overloaded with books. Books, like, everywhere. I thought maybe her parents were academics. I could imagine what people in my crappy, small, under-educated town would think about people like Katrina’s mum and dad. Weirdos. People who hole up in the middle of nowhere, don’t bother to participate in small-town antics and just read and read and read. I don’t remember actually seeing Katrina, but I remember what I thought about her family’s way of life: “heaven”.


When I was 19, I still lived in that crappy country town, even though I kind of hated it. I was attending university just an hour away and was still living with my folks. I wanted desperately to move away, but didn’t have the confidence to move by myself to Melbourne, the big smoke, which was three hours away. One day my book club sent me The Horse Whisperer. I don’t remember the plot in detail as it was so long ago that I read it, but there was a part where the mother, Annie, was in the New York Public Library at night (drool!) and there was something so sophisticated and wonderful about that. I could barely wait until the next day to apply for a transfer to a city university, knowing that then I could do sophisticated things like read in a beautiful library at night. I wonder if other people have been compelled to make major life decisions based on such things?


After I had moved, I did, in fact, end up spending many a night (and day) studying in the State Library of Victoria’s domed reading room in downtown Melbourne (the library shown in these photographs). I remember the room’s green lamps, and exiting the library on cold rainy nights to catch the tram home. I remember wishing the library had a cafe (it now does). I remember watching a mature-aged student obviously cramming for an exam, occasionally shattering the library’s stern silence by performing sets of push-ups on the floor.

As I said, I love hearing other people’s anecdotes about libraries and the like. One that I’ll always remember occurred not long ago. My sister’s fiance, a fairly over-qualified young man in general, was being phone-interviewed for a job in a Melbourne library. He was asked why on earth he would apply for such a job when he obviously had far more education and experience than the job demanded. His answer was simply, “I belong in a library.” Needless to say, he got the job.

I look forward to hearing more stories about bookish places.

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3 Responses to “libraries, books, and the things they do to you”

  1. Col September 10, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    I so enjoyed reading your anecdotes, especially the one about the little house in the country with rows and rows of books. Personally I can not think of any particular moments but, generally speaking, entering a book store or library fills me with much anticipation and excitement. The possibilities seem endless.

    • PrairieJournals September 11, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

      Absolutely! Even today I was in Chapters, which I’ve been to so many times, but still found it exciting. Armed with my pumpkin spice latte (YUM) and nothing but hours of browsing ahead of me, I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be 🙂

      • steph September 13, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

        I enjoy Chapters but now that I work at an indie for a boss who gets angry about people going to Chapters, I have to be really careful! She’s in Starbucks a lot. Speaking of which, I LOVE the pumpkin spice latte, and the chai one!

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