Long live library books, says Fiona Ralph. Picture / Babiche Martens.

TBT: Long Live Library Books

Why you should borrow a book or two from your local library this year

When I was young, the library was my sanctuary. I was such a frequent visitor that the chief librarian kept new books aside for me. I must have been pretty VIP, given that I was allowed into the “staff only” back room for my pick of the latest Goosebumps and Sweet Valley High books before they went on the shelf.

My library addiction continued into my tertiary studies, where I'd usually spend so long researching a project, reading every book on the subject, that I'd barely have any time to do the work.

After polytech, for some reason, the visits dried up. I blame travel, work, laptop TV, anxiety, life. While I still purchased or borrowed the odd book, the pile next to my bed diminished and my library card was forgotten. Apart from a couple of brief visits to borrow Wi-fi – not books – libraries and I lost touch.

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Then mid last year, an article proved hard to research online, and I found myself navigating to the Auckland Libraries website. I tentatively re-registered and borrowed a book on the history of Crown Lynn. On its return, I borrowed two more, and more again. After a 10-year hiatus, I was back.

Now it’s a weekly ritual, and I find myself accosting strangers and friends with my rediscovered knowledge.

“Have you seen the new Devonport library?” I ask. “Did you know you can borrow a book from any Auckland library and return it to an entirely different one across the city? And that you can borrow books for a whole month, then renew them for another month?”

Some days I occupy myself by scoping out libraries in different suburbs. Like an addict, I promise myself I'll just go in to look, or that I'll only borrow one or two books. Then out I walk with a 10-high pile, and another five requests booked in, leading to the stressful situation of having to return unread or half-read books, and needing to constantly juggle different due dates.

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My renewed fervour shouldn't come as a surprise, given that my parents have been campaigners of libraries my whole life. There's always a pile of books on its way in or out of their house. And they have the request process down to a fine art – making sure to have enough good books in time for the holidays, but not too many at once. (I'm still learning this obviously).

We're in good company. Famous fans of libraries include Lena Dunham, Keith Richards and Oprah. What's not to like? They're fun, free and full of knowledge. Long live the library, I say.

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New Zealand Herald

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