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In the library (again)

It’s my second post about the joys of going to the library in as many months, so I won’t hold it against you if you don’t keep reading… this post. Please keep reading everything else! 

Over the past month I have borrowed and read a lot of books from the Cardiff library system, trying out different branches of the library, close to home, nearby and in the city. 

Using the library has been such a joy, immensely practical and an interesting, unexpected change of perspective. 

The joy of discovery

First and foremost, browsing for books comes with a joy of discovery that I don’t get in the same way from browsing digitally. Just like spotting an unexpected treat in the supermarket, I picked up books when I go and collect the ones I have ordered. It’s not exactly unexpected, but it’s been a while since I freely browsed and wandered through shelves of books, all available to take home. 

Last weekend I picked up two fiction books at my local branch, a very small affair of a village library housed in a single room and enthusiastically open for one afternoon a week. That was my free time this weekend sorted! 

I read ferociously across different genres, so now when I am stuck and unsure of what to read next, I can simply pick some books that look interesting and see how much I like them. If they’re not for me, I return them the next week. 

Free, unlimited books 

The fact that I don’t need to buy the books makes a huge difference to how much I read. This is especially true for work related books or books that I want to read for research are not usually volumes I want to buy or can afford. I have worked for decades outside of an institution with its own library service, so having a newly rediscovered scope for borrowing whatever sparks my curiosity has made a much greater difference than I had anticipated. Access to books, it seems, has been something I have missed. 

I can now indulge freely in reading everything by an interesting author I’ve just discovered or a book I’ve come across on a podcast or at coach training and that is a huge bonus.  

It has given me a new appreciation for the very real benefits access to resources such as an excellent library can offer.  An appreciation that didn’t get lost, but that moved into the background during the global pandemic, when my focus was on much more urgent issues than finding easy access to unlimited reading materials for myself. 

Spaces of social solace

In common with many friends and colleagues I have a long held love for libraries, and that’s probably what got me started with cemeteries (so called ‘libraries of stone’). But at this time here in the UK, walking into libraries advertising opening hours as warm spaces, stocked with hot drinks and comfortable seating for those in need, is a new experience for me. I have taken part in all sorts of initiatives in libraries in the past, to help teach digital skills, provide online access, to teach literacy, citizenship and access to local services. I’ve been to fitness classes in libraries, to therapy sessions, I have worked in libraries. I wrote my thesis in one. I applied for the right to remain in the UK post Brexit in a library. Now, folk are heading to libraries to keep warm. My hope is that alongside the precious warmth, they find social connection or solace in the imagination of others through the magic of reading.