Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Library

My very favourite library, the New York Public Library: this splendid building is the home of the research library, "with the famous main reading room a majestic 78 feet (23.8 m) wide by 297 feet (90.5 m) long, with 52 feet (15.8 m) high ceilings - lined with thousands of reference books on open shelves along the floor level and along the balcony; lit by massive windows and grand chandeliers; furnished with sturdy wood tables, comfortable chairs, and brass lamps." Now that's a library. Go visit if you are ever in New York. They usually have some kind of special show on in their gallery which also adds to its visitor appeal.

I know that I promised I wouldn't talk about books for a bit, but I guess I just can't help it. Sorry! Today, I was at a branch of the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) that is not "my branch". While there, I was talking to a librarian who used to work at "my branch" but now works at the other branch. We know each other really well and I was talking about what I am going to say here.

We came to Vancouver in 1961 and one of the first things we did was get a library card. Both A and I are insatiable readers and we came to Vancouver with just enough money to buy some cheap furniture for our apartment and a second hand car. No money for books, of course, hence the library cards.

In 1964, we bought our first house in the Dunbar area and with our 18 month old son we started the "B" family tradition of going to the Dunbar Branch of the VPL every Saturday. A few years later we had a daughter and then four of us made the weekly pilgrimage. I guess we chose Saturday because A wasn't working that day and later on the children were not in school. Of course, when I was working and sometimes did weekend shift work, Saturday still suited the other three and I scrabbled in just before they closed. After all, the books were always due on a Saturday.

Luckily I was blessed with two children who are also readers and, even after they went away to graduate school at other universities, whoever was home for the summer visit still went on the library outing. We are both retired now for almost nine years but we still go on the Saturday library pilgrimage, just the two of us. In fact my son, who has his own house across the city does the Saturday library run to "his branch".

When we have finished whatever book we are reading, we put it in the front hall by the front door. So we won't forget to take it back. We moved house in 1977, but only a mile from our original house, so we didn't have to change branches and this house too has a heap of books by the front door.

Of course I now own thousands of books but I still borrow many and for forty three years we have had this family tradition. The daughter who lives outside New York city, although not following the day exactly, still is a regular patron of her library and I think she owns even more books than I do.

Before I finish this post I just want to tell you about a book which I finished last night, now by the front door for return on Saturday. Not a full review but a little teaser. It's called The Echo Maker, a novel, by Richard Power. I was fascinated by this book because it was full of case histories describing the infinitely bizarre world of brain injuries. The protagonist, after a car accident, has Capgras syndrome -- the delusion that people in one's life are doubles or imposters. Now don't be put off, this was a very well written novel and it won the National Book Award in 2006.

Now definitely the next post will not be about books. The Saturday Photo Hunt --Art will show you a photo of a piece of art that I treasure and of course it has a little story to go with it. See you all here.


Eurodog said...

Interesting post again, jmb.
Of course we have public libraries here too but they are not housed in glamourous buildings.
You inspire me to read but I am afraid I am suffering from a lack of time at the moment. I am organizing an obedience competition for 90 dogs on sunday. It is a lot of hard work but I am sure it will be OK on the day. Hopefully it will not rain. We have had tropical downpours for the last week. In fact Belle and I were caught in one yesterday and I was soaked to the skin. As if I had been thrown in a swimming pool with all my clothes on. Belle hated it and took a long time to dry. Today she is all soft!
I am sure it is due to global warming because it is not Belgium's typical weather pattern. Let's not go into that.
Have a super day, jmb.

mhr said...

I've always bought library cards everywhere I lived, except in my current location (the local library is ridiculously small)
Fortunately, I am able to borrow books from friends and family (readers attract readers!)
I have fond memories of my Paisley library card which started my unquenchable thirst for reading books in English... I still remember the 1st book I borrowed there, it was a biography of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (but I've forgotten who wrote it)

lady macleod said...

books or food? never a hard choice for me, the books every time. What a wonderful family tradition. I know what you mean, I was so pleased to find I had given birth to a "reader". We are often in the salon, quiet, each with a book in hand.

james higham said...

How can you read in anything so large? I'd get the heebie-jeebies.

Ellee said...

Our libraries are struggling here in the UK and seem to have become internet centres. You can even get married in one in a nearby town as the registrar has set up an office there.

Smalltown RN said...

Books....all of my sisters are avide readers....I can always remember one of my sisters she could read a book while having a me....although I enjoy a good book...reading was never my forte....I think it has a lot to do with my took me so long to grasp reading....and understanding the language of words that it was a chore. It was one of my eldest sisters who started to introduce me to books....she got me onto them to this day...but she also introduced me to a variety of other books each and every book she introduced to me I enjoyed. I passed a few of those books onto my middle daughter..and she too enjoyed them...I get great pleasure when my daughter and I can talk about a book....yes there is something magical that happens when one reads....

Mimi Lenox said...

An invitation from Mimi…….To: Saturday Photo Hunters
Many bloggers will be flying Peace Globes in the blogosphere on Wednesday, June 6, 2007. It is BlogBlast for Peace day - the second annual event. Please consider using your blog voice and creative influence on this day to participate. The theme for June 2 is ART - perfect for creativity with a peace globe perhaps? You can find more information about the movement at Mimi Writes or BlogBlast for Peace. I wanted to make you aware of the event. I really enjoy looking at your photographs on Saturdays. or
Thanks and peace!

jmb said...

Hi Eurodog,
Well that building I showed is in New York, not Vancouver, although the main library here is inspired by the colosseum in Rome!
I hope you have a lovely sunshiny day for the obedience competition on Sunday, although dogs usually don't care to much about rain, only the handlers.

jmb said...

Hi mhr,
Books are wonderful however you find them and it's good to share them with each other.
Does give discounts like and have free shipping if you buy a certain amount?

jmb said...

Hi Lady MacLeod,
Well I never gave up food for books, thankfully not necessary because a library card costs nothing here.
I'm so grateful that I raised two readers. My SIL, who is not so much of a reader, looks at the four of us reading separately and doesn't understand. He's Italian and his family all talk non stop and shout over each other.

jmb said...

Hi James,
This is the main reading room of the research building, serious scholars here! Well maybe, but it's a very impressive room. My local branch of the VPL is small, although stuffed with books, but they truck stuff around from one branch to another on request so that's mainly what I do.

jmb said...

That's a shame Ellee, although ours are full of computers too with people sending emails.
BC, my province, has the highest percentage of readers in Canada, which is funny since we have the best weather and are outdoors a lot.

jmb said...

Hi smalltown rn,
I am glad that you are coming around to being able to enjoy reading.
But you don't only have to read to enjoy the written word.
In my car I listen to books on tape (usually they are abridged but I listen to authors I don't usually read so if I discover someone good I can read their books)and in my kitchen I listen to books on CD. All obtainable at the library.
To read is to learn and not only that but it gives great pleasure.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Dearest jmb, don't ever apologise for writing about books! This is a wonderful post. That'a a library I would love to visit and it's so interesting - and reassuring - to know that you still have a "library" tradition as a family. Coincidentally, I have just watched a "Sky" report about Google putting all books online and I thought, "Oh! My poor library!" But reading this has calmed me in that I now feel the tradition of "real" reading is safe for a little while, at least. Thank you.

jmb said...

I read lots of blogs on line but I don't want to read books that way. I want to hold them in my hand, turn to the frontispiece, look at the maps if there are any, look at the author's other books. When was it published? Look at the author's photo.
Just not the same online but if they do put everything online nothing will ever go out of print.

Lee said...

I'd love to visit that library...I reckon I could spend a month or a year in there!

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
We visit it every time we go to New York because there is always some good exhibit there and it's very close to Grand Central Station where the train comes in from my daughter's town.

Sarabeth said...

Have you read Oliver Sack's books? two in particular are The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat or An Anthropologist on Mars.

These are real medical cases along the same lines as the novel you described.

jmb said...

Hi Sarabeth,
I have not read those two, although I have heard of The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. I'll look out for them both. I'll have to be getting my medical fixes from books again now that all my favourite medblogs are disappearing.

Liz said...

The library was one of my favourite buildings in New York. Probably THE favourite in fact. Libraries are just an amazing invention! Books for free.

jmb said...

Hi Liz,

I just love that building too. Even before I ever went to New York I knew about it and now I go fairly regularly to visit my daughter just outside New York, I visit it often.
Libraries are just the best invention!