Libraries always have a special place in my heart – like most of us growing up before rush of digital information. I remember weekly or bi-weekly library trips and filling my arms with the rich resources that opened doors to new worlds, new ideas, new places or just new names of dinosaurs or insects!
As I progressed to study, we had school libraries and I was lucky enough to go to a secondary school – not just with an extensive school library but with a particularly beautiful one. I can’t say I appreciated it fully at the time but I have fond memories of the stark wooden floors and the big reference books I read during our morning prayers (don’t ask – but we had morning prayers in one of the rooms in the library and I made my way through many back copies of National Geographic during ‘silent prayer’).
At University, the library was the centre of the student world – well, maybe it was the student union bar – but it definitely was a place of reference for all students. We collected the books we needed and couldn’t afford to buy and we spend hours working through the day and night leading up to exams and deadlines. We met and chatted, we laughed and we cried in the big library.
As I moved to postgraduate study, I renewed after a few years absence, my aquientance with the library. There was the university library. This time, smaller and more specialist. I was studying at a ‘branch’ of the university with fewer subjects. Sometimes I went to the ‘main’ university library site – much bigger and more undergraduates but lots of room to explore and roam. It even had an adjoining cafe. All these things are important. I also used the library near my house for some of the weekend work. I didn’t have much space to study at home and it was a nice environment to work quietly. I liked libraries.
But that was a while ago. I hadn’t used a library for study for many years. When we were fostering young people, we took them to the library, borrowed books and joined some of the activities but as we stopped that, I became more and more removed from a world which had been so special to me for so many years.
Returning to study again, for another degree, was something that genuinely excited me in a way I hadn’t been for a while with work-related things. It was learning. I had almost forgotten how much I loved learning and had an opportunity to learn and relearn.
The first onsite day included a library tour. All.. the.. books. All the books. I had forgotten the joy of just being surrounded by books. Not bookshop books which were sparkly new but well-worn books. Books that each had stories, some even had naughty scribbles of desperation. Some were well-thumbed and angstily highlighted. Others were gleaming new and almost unloved on the shelves. At my first opportunity, I reacquainted myself with libraries and realised it had been way too long. I trudged home with a bag full of goodies. Got home and explored the online offering.
It was a reliving of all those years where I had missed decent library access and the richness of experience and knowledge which was now at my fingertips. How this would and could have helped me through the beginning years of practice or more, after my first one, two, three years when the fervour of being ‘newly qualified’ had been replaced with the rush and bustle of finding my way in the profession. I wonder why it wasn’t taken for granted that access to a library, with resources and research would have helped.
But for now, it’s time to make up for lost time.