Stuttgart City Library, Germany. Photo credit: danieldalton.me
During my inaugural Bookstravaganza I read nine books—one third of my total for all of 2013. Now that I am much older and wiser (with 43 books under my belt so far this year), I feel confident in promising to read a solid dozen. My selection includes classics I’ve been meaning to read for years but never got around to (The Chrysalids, The Foundation trilogy, Lolita), contemporary fiction by little-known authors which I picked up at secondhand sales (Inside, Solo), short stories (Bliss), comedies (The 100-Year-Old Man), tragedies (The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea), and treatises (Spaceship Earth).
I hate the idea of being rigidly locked in to a reading plan, so this stack only represents some of the titles I *may* read for this funkerific second sortie into competitive ocular text absorption. Truth be told, I intend to supplement my stack with other volumes, depending on their availability at the library. For, as much as it pains me to admit to my fellow aspiring writers, I am not in the custom of buying books. Oh sure I pick them up sometimes at a basement sale for a dollar. I’ll spend the Indigo giftcards that I inevitably get for Christmas (a rather obvious gift for a recent BA English and Creative Writing grad). But buying books has always felt like a special indulgence to me.
I come from a family where the books you own sit up on the shelf and the books you read come from the library. Where we participated in the Fort Saskatchewan Public Library’s summer reading program year after year (and not just to get the stamps to win a party platter from Subway). Where I was frequently frustrated that the FSPL only lent out 21 books at a time.
Growing up, the Fort Sask library (which, to my horror, has since had its redbrick clocktower demolished and been eaten by the sleek new city hall building) was not just a book depository. I had my driver’s ed class there, in one of the same basement rooms where I’d gone to preschool. I wrote essays there, and used the computers to check in on my Neopets account (to my deep shame, I think my Acara may still be starving to death as we speak…). In the piechart of my life, the library’s wedge is fourth only to my home, my school, and the swimming pool. My mom always tells me that I’m a swimmer because started doing lessons together since I was five months old. In the same way, the library got me young and hasn’t let go.
Which is why I’m excited about this year’s fundraising recipient: the Edmonton Public Library’s Welcome Baby programme (http://www.epl.ca/interests/preschool/babies), which gives parents the tools to activate a love of reading in their child from the earliest age. I recently read Todd Babiak’s history of the EPL, Just Getting Started, and although most of the dates and names have already fled my memory, one quote stuck with me:
I saw it spray painted around the city last year, a testament to the library’s purpose. In his book Babiak describes a whiteboard that was set up in the Stanley A. Milner downtown branch. Librarygoers were asked to write down why they were there, and their reasons were as varied as the people themselves. Some were students, some were office workers, some were researchers, some simply needed a place out of the cold. Libraries are amazing places, some of them amazingly beautiful like the Stuttgart City Library pictured above. The library is the so-called “university of the people,” where the treasures on the thousand shelves are free to all. A meeting place for people of all backgrounds, where our minds are expanded not just by what we read but by the people who are gathered around us.
I hope that we can rally a lot of support for the Welcome Baby programme this year, not just to make more readers, but to make more librarygoers, and thereby make better citizens for our burgeoning metropolis.