On my way home from church yesterday, I happened to find the town library.
That may seem like an odd statement, for those of you who are aware that I have been living in the same town for 24 years.
But the thing is that the library has gone wandering off lately, from where it used to be.
More precisely, it has been moved to temporary premises, while the building where it used to be all these years is being renovated. I had read about that, but managed to get the wrong impression of exactly where it had gone to.
Lucky for me that I stumbled upon it, or I might have found myself spending some day soon getting lost in who-knows-what dimensions in search of an Unseen Library! (A reference which will probably only be correctly understood by readers familiar with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series…)
Yesterday, I only noted the location.
Today, I went back to explore.
Had to turn a few mystic corners to find the English section… But they still have one.
Thinking about it, I don’t know much about library systems in other countries. Our public libraries are free. In this town, besides the central town library, we also have several small district libraries. There is one of those closer to where I live. At any library you can ask them to order books for you from the other ones. You can also borrow a book at one library in town and hand it back at another. Nowadays we can also renew our loans over the internet (if there is no queue for that book.)
My mother used to read a lot – not in later years, but from my childhood I remember her as constantly reading. And I was always fascinated by libraries. From my teenage years I have very distinct visual memories of the old library in the town where I went to school. I would know exactly what shelf to go to to look for Madame Bovary (Flaubert, there, on the left) or Gone with the wind (Mitchell, further to the right), or books on Religion or Science (upstairs on a sort of balcony or gallery), or Art (a smaller room on the side)…
In 8th grade (‘junior high’), I had 2 weeks of ‘job experience' in that library. I also spent a lot of time there while in secondary school. With one friend I used to go to the library to listen to music – Simon and Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan. (Two people could listen to the same record in separate sets of earphones, sitting in two armchairs side by side.) With another friend, I used to go and look at pictures of famous paintings in some art book.
I had in mind for a while back then to become a librarian. But when it was time to make a career choice, I was told that job opportunities weren’t looking good. Occasionally, I wonder “what if…”
But “what if” (what if I had, what if I hadn’t…) is the kind of question we’ll never be able to find the answer to in any book.