Tag Archives: children

Why I Went Back to the Library – PART 2

Reading in Soltitude
                                                     Reading in Solitude

In my last post I spoke about my actual journey back to being an active library-user. That story is true, however, it didn’t touch on the real reasons as to why I continue using a library and what makes me promote the library habit among the people I know. For this I’ll have to give you a bit of background, so here are a few more stories.

Like I mentioned before, my mom is the person who got me hooked on reading. She’s not a big reader herself, being more of a learner, but she was convinced that reading is the absolute best gift she could give her kids. I completely agree with her, both as a child and a mother, and will talk about this in another post for sure. Initially, she started with the standard books – Ladybird Bird’s Peter and Jane reading series, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl – with a few eccentric finds thrown in. However, as we grew, and my brother and I started devouring the books she handed us (that’s how she describes our obsession), finding new age appropriate authors was a challenge for two reasons. One she had not been that into reading as a child and the second, considering that there was no real internet then, the concept of reviewing children’s books in magazines and newspapers was rare. So she started dedicating one afternoon a week to book searches. We would visit a bookstore or our library and spend hours reading all the blurbs and a few paragraphs of different books from different series. Considering that she had two huge book appetites to satisfy, she preferred to focus on books that were part of a series. I remember these afternoons as some of the best times of my life. If we really liked a series, she would go out and invest in buying the whole set for us. It was through this exercise that we discovered authors like Willard Price, a Canadian author who wrote a travel adventure series featuring two teenagers and their dad. Even today, in the age of extreme information access, a lot of the amazing books we read, then, are not very well-known.

Today, this is what the library gives me. A source to discover forgotten books and authors. Some of these books have been published decades before and some a few months earlier. Some of them are duds, however many of them are gems that I would have never come across at a regular bookstore*. The librarians themselves have been around for ages and sometimes give me pointers or help me find a certain genre of book that I’m in the mood for**. The library also gives me the flexibility to read the first in a series and figure out if I want to add it to my collection at home or forget the second book***.

Moving on to another story, when I first got married, my husband just couldn’t understand my desire to go off to a coffee shop on my own to read. I am a really social person, though not an extrovert, so this characteristic of mine just didn’t fit in for him. Over time he has come to accept and understand this quirk and now we even go on reading dates. We order coffee, hold hands and read. I’m sure our neighborhood coffee shops advertise our presence as some weird social experiment. Anyway, a library takes this experience to the next level. Now, the library I go to does not have space for reading, but it does have a couple of old wonky chairs at the back, which are secluded and comfy. On many a stressful day I have escaped for a break to the library. There’s no way to describe the rejuvenating effects of browsing, choosing a book and then reading among the towering shelves in absolute silence. You have to experience it. It’s my secret room of sorts and way cheaper than a weekend getaway (though I love those too).

So there you have it. The real reasons why I will continue to go to a library as long as I can, and will try to convince everyone, including you my lovely reader, to do the same.

Always Stay Happy

The Dreamer

*The number of bookstores all over the world, has drastically gone down and most of them only focus on bestsellers and popular authors. Another pet peeve of mine is many of the employees don’t have a clue about books or authors. I understand the constraints in getting knowledgeable employees, but it’s still an irritant. Again fodder for another discussion?

**Obviously, you have to be lucky enough to find a library and librarians who have been around for a while.

***Looking at you Shades of Grey.

Why I Went Back to the Library – PART 1

Reading spot outside a library that I fell in love with...
Reading spot outside a library that I fell in love with…

When I first moved to India in 1999, one of my first tasks was finding a library in the neighbourhood I was to move into. I was fresh out of school and obviously had my mom along to take care of the mundane tasks like actually finding me a place to live. Now, having got me my first library membership at the rip-old age of three, my mom kind of understood the urgency of this task. Though, not when she was standing in line to get me a gas connection and I was calling her to check if I should sign-up for a 5 book or 7 book per week membership. So it was, that I had many happy years with this library. I browsed and inhaled, made friends with the librarians, hid among the shelves when I was down and took extra books to celebrate my post exam weekends.

Six years down the line; I got engaged, followed it up by getting married and moving to a new state. I was running a home, commuting to work with my husband and working 12 hours a day. So basically, I couldn’t get near a library. I did join one near my house but it was shut on Sundays, my only day off, and being bookless scared the **** of me. Naturally, I started buying books by the boatload. Sunday mornings were spent sipping coffee and browsing books at the new concept cafe-bookstores around the city. I enjoyed the ritual and ‘it’ become our thing (the husband and I).

Three years later, we finally moved back to my husband’s home-city, had a baby and started a business. And that’s when we ran short of money, flexibility and space. Babies and new businesses are exciting, but they basically leave you no time or money for anything else. I was rereading old books, borrowing from my huge extended family and even got my mom to send a whole bunch of my old books from my childhood home to India. It wasn’t enough by far, but I didn’t know what to do. Then  one beautiful evening, the baby and I were taking a shortcut through my old neighbourhood (which is quite close to our office) and I saw my old love, the library. There it was, faithfully waiting for me with open doors (no air-conditioning till today).

Excitement bubbled through me as I crossed the sacred threshold, while trying to explain my relationship with this place to my not-yet-two-year-old daughter. She obviously understood the sentiment because almost six years on, visiting that place every Saturday after work is now our ritual (my daughter and I). We have a snowy ice-cream cone at the small chaat store next door and then spend a happy hour stocking up for our week. We browse, read, share, giggle, argue and then walk out carrying enough books to build a small tower. Then, we visit the green grocer in the next building, do our fruit shopping for the week before finally walking down to the nearest coffee shop, ordering hi-tea and sitting back to enjoy our loot.

It’s been a true full circle and I’m happy to pass on this tradition to my little girl. We still go to book shops to browse, buy gifts (most of them sell other stuff too, though I believe in books being the best gifts ever) and add to our library at home, though at a snail’s pace compared to before. Despite this beautiful story (beautiful to me), there are a few more real reasons why I’ll continue using my library membership as long as I can and that I’ll share in my next post. Till then, what about the rest of you? Do you have a library membership? Do you use it? Or do you buy books at a store or online?

Stay Happy Everyday

The Dreamer