Why Library? by Caylie Jeffery

We share so much of our space with so many people in our busy lives that rarely are we able to locate a place where we can achieve a sense of peace. Somewhere where we can slow down and walk softly, ensconcing ourselves in the silence and solitude we need to regroup.

The word library always comes to me in a whisper. I know that wherever I am in the world, there is a place I can go in order to ignite my senses, open my mind and rest my soul.

Many years ago, I walked through the ethereal halls of Cambridge University. Vivaldi's Four Seasons was playing softly in the antechamber leading into the library, and when I walked through the doors, I truly thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Upon seeing the film City of Angels, I was captivated by the concept that angels are often found in libraries. It made complete sense to me because I've always thought that if there was an afterlife, it would be inside a library. That’s where I’d want to be.

To run my curious hands along the rows of books, feeling their smooth spines and wondering which one will jump out at me, begging me to read it...

To have the scent of printers' ink and ageing paper fill my nostrils as soon as I walked through the doors...

To see a plethora of rainbow colours filled with opportunities and possibilities...

To hear the sounds of silence as I walk into a room - the faint rustle of pages being turned, the gentle swish of books being replaced on shelves, the softened rubber stamping by the stern librarian checking in overdue books. Even the beautifully worn wooden drawers holding the reference cards used to give me a sense of order and quietude.

My children are now being introduced to libraries - the school library is a pivotal place where a whole new world is opened up to them. Libraries will give them permission to disappear from an often troubled world into a fantasy land, filled with wonder and delight. Librarians will provide them with opportunities to walk in places that only exist in the pages of a story.

Libraries give our senses a chance to blossom, to open up our imaginations and to meet new people... I met the first true friends in my life in a library- the characters in my favourite books, who still walk beside me today.

But for how long will these magnificent institutions be with us? Technology seems to be choking their future. E-books are opening up a new way of reading, where people can access books on a machine from anywhere they happen to be.

But it’s not just about the books, is it?

It’s about the senses. It’s about the space. It’s about the peace.

I wonder what the word "Library" ignites in you.

Even more importantly, what does a world without libraries mean to you?

The State Library of Queensland wants to engage with you about the Library of the Future...

Enter the Why Library competition by clicking on this link. Describe libraries of the future – submit an entry of up to 200 words for your chance to win an iPad mini.

Libraries are no longer buildings that just house books. They have been changing to meet the needs of their communities. We invite you to submit a written entry of up to 200 words based on the theme the library of the future. Write about what you want to the library of the future to be or what you would like the library to include or look like. Your submission could be a story, a poem, song lyrics, or a haiku. Let your imagination be your guide.

 

Caylie Jeffery started out life as a Nurse and Counsellor, but after a close call with London terrorists, she took a fresh view of the world and sailed around it for two years with her husband. She now live in Brisbane with her family, who keep her on her toes but give her lots to write about!

Caylie's many adventures and experiences have made her into a strong, observant and interested woman and she uses Familial Essays on her Blog, Distractions of a Busy Mother, to connect with the greater community.  She works as a freelance writer for a number of publications, and is an emerging author of YA literary fiction.

When she's not writing, Caylie renovates, paints pictures, and cares for her family. She has a wonderful circle of extraordinary friends who encourage and support her relentlessly and a growing number of followers to whom she is eternally grateful to for their readership and insight.

You can follow Caylie's weekly essays on

Web: www.cayliejeffery.com.au

Facebook: Caylie Jeffery, Writer

Twitter: @CaylieAuthor

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I loved this piece! I have always felt the same way about libraries, and would be so sad to think that one day they may not be around. I love the idea of thinking about libraries of the future. Thank you for this piece. It gives us a lot to think about.

This resonated with me. When my kids were little I used to go to one of the UQ libraries every Saturday, and as soon as I walked through the doors, I would feel a sense of peace, purpose and the lovely feeling that no one could annoy me for the next few hours. I think the libraries of the future will incorporate living spaces: giant living rooms where people can read, plug in, chat etc. Everyone's houses are getting smaller, so we need communal living spaces. We also need quiet space to study and write, so there needs to be a separation of these, as sometimes the library can get noisy. Well said, Caylie!

Your piece brought back memories of many happy hours I have spent in libraries. Research was physical labour in my school and university days: no Google to lean on!

As I read your article I recalled one of the first things mum and dad did when we arrived in New Guinea in 1966 was to sign us all up to the municipal library where we would go as a family on a Sunday after church (yegods! no TV, no phone, and the drive-in was Saturdays only). The library was a former repat hospital from WWII built by the yanks. Typically it was set on the fore shore of Ela beach in a vista that would aid any recovery, set amidst the typical arrangement of coconut trees, brilliant white sand and the clearest of pacific ocean water. When the four bretheran had enough of reading we got changed and were pushed out onto the beach to play for the next three hours, only stopping to get redressed and have lunch at the RSL next door. We returned home armed with selected books that Mum and Dad would endeavour to read to us throughout the week - only to return again the following weekend..... not bad

A fabulous piece! I agree absolutely a day when there are no books is approaching desolation...the feel of those well read pages where so many have been before!

You're so right Sujatha. It is a sad thought, and one we can actively push out of our minds by continuing to use the ones we have, treasuring their services , their staff and their books. When we teach our children the importance of libraries, we keeping the doors open for much longer!

Thank you Poppy- I am glad you mentioned using library space as a parent to get a little peace and purpose with your small children. Spaces like The Corner at the State Library kept me sane for hours while my children enjoyed the performances, activities and books there. They automatically go quieter now when they're in a library. As an author, it sounds like you utilise them a fair bit too. Thanks for your feedback!

Hi Dom, remember when we used to get told to look things up in the encyclopaedia? Or later, the dictionary? Learning to research is such an important part of the discipline of study and I'm actually glad we didn't have Google back then. But it looks like this technology is here to stay- how can we mesh the two together?

Matthew, I could smell the sea and feel the relaxation from here- what a magical way to spend a childhood! Lovely memories...

Thank you Amanda. We need to stop the Libraries from becoming museums, don't we!

Great story. Really enjoyable . Also, I love the photos. Very contemporary. I am a visual person, so I do love interesting contemporary photos that go with the gorgeous inspiring words. Our new house is one street away (a one minute walk) from the Ponsonby Library. It is such a privilege to be able to just walk there on foot anytime. It is such a refuge for my soul. It has a great children's reading room as well.

Congrats Caylie! Loved it! When I was in primary school, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a librarian or work in a book shop. Best place on earth

The Ponsonby Library is very beautiful - you're lucky to be able to live so close and I'm glad you and your child make use of its spaces. Refuge for your soul- my thoughts exactly.

Thank you Cath. Glad you got some memory jog from that piece- I also wanted to be a librarian and today, I would dearly love to open an independent book store. Sigh...

I just read this and it took me to another world, even brought a tear to my eye. I just want to place myself in one of the pictures you posted of those beautiful libraries and explore away. What an inspiring and important topic to be writing about.

At our university, a library now is a place you go to try and find the “right” information and to meet other like-minded or similar-seeking people to move your mind to a better understanding. Librarians are needed to help you find your way, and the location is needed to provide someone else to enhance and sometimes create the journey.

I don't think a loss of paper-based books means people won't want to go to libraries. I just think what you see there will change. In 50 years, if we don't fall victim to a zombie apocalypse I figure there might be a shelf of all books just as a reminder of what libraries once were, but mostly will be computer banks and places where people can read e-books, or sit to read their won if they have their own devices. So, the content of libraries may change, but I doubt the context will.

I've tried e-books and it's just not the same as holding a stack of papers bound by imagination, memories and thoughts in your hands. I remember spending hours and hours in libraries as a young kid up until a few years ago before other things began to prioritise my time differently. I'd walk from aisle to aisle or find a stepping stone to reach that which caught my eye on the top most shelf, then settle down in one of the bean bag corners or other little nook that I could find. But the best thing was that once it was time to go home a little plastic card allowed me the privilege of taking the stories and other interesting texts home with me. Libraries were my home away from home and a sanctuary that forced you to stop and escape; and the librarians became friends of another kind as they smiled and helped me with each wordy find or watched me approach the check out desk with my stack of chosen treasures, standing on my tippy toes eagerly waiting to have them back in my hands again. And I still automatically think of reaching for a book or heading to the library to find answers instead of Google. Whether it be a public or personal library, nothing will ever be able to replicate the experience. It is certainly saddening to see libraries having to find ways to remain relevant in today's society - having to compete with growing time constraints that make it easier for the ever-changing technology to maintain it's top spot in our lives.

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