My Catchphrases

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Saturday Spotlight: Guest Post: Libraries are Calm, Knowledge, Inspiration and Freedom by Clover (Fluttering Butterflies)


This weeks beautiful post about libraries comes from the talented Clover from Fluttering Butterflies. I will hand over to Michelle:
My dad used to always tell me stories about how I'd always pester him to read and re-read my favourite books to me over and over again before I learned to read by myself. He'd tell stories about how different my older brother and I were - how he'd always be outside running around playing, and how I could always be found somewhere reading a book. I've loved books my entire life, I really don't know where or what I'd be without them.

Growing up, my dad could never keep up. He'd buy me books and I would fly through them and ask for more (I still have battered old copies of Charlotte's Web and the Ramona Quimby books!). So very early on, he would more often than not rely on the local libraries to keep me satisfied and with enough books to read. And oh, how I've always had very fond memories of libraries growing up. When I was very little, I'd love the bright colours and the posters on the walls. I loved browsing the shelves and finding new surprises.

When I was 6, I wandered into the non-fiction section and picked up a book about Louis Pasteur, the man responsible for the process of pasteurizing milk and making milk safer to drink. I wouldn't talk about anything else for weeks and my dad and teachers were surprised as it was a book usually only older children would pick up and only when required to write a book report of some sort, not generally read for fun. Finding that book at the library inspired me, if only for a short while, to pursue an interest in science. Later, I remember picking up a series of books about historical American girls that had me fascinated. There were so many interesting facts and things to learn that I had no idea about. The library inspired that knowledge.

Without libraries, I'm not sure that I'd have had such a lifelong interest in learning or for reading. While having good intentions, my dad always tried to steer me down a path of reading stodgy and boring classics that he thought would 'benefit my mind' whereas for the most part, I just wanted to read something fun. In fact, I clearly remember distinct phases growing up of the books and series that I read and loved and discovered at the library that my dad probably wouldn't have approved of - The Babysitter's Club. Goosebumps and Fear Street by RL Stine, books by VC Andrews! I don't think that it matters that I was reading books like these at all, because they instilled in me a love of reading! How excited I was to find a new book in my favourite series amongst the New Arrivals shelves! It would make my entire day.

Late in elementary school and into middle school, I went through a phase of only reading books about Native Americans. I had just started becoming aware of own heritage (of being half Native-Alaskan on my mother's side) and I found that reading books about other Native American girls made me feel a lot less alone. And at this point in my life, I desperately needed that. As our family moved around a lot, I had to live through more first-days-at-a-new-school too many times to count. I was never very sociable, more the anxious, quiet child and I didn't cope very well with so many changes. But I always thought of libraries as my 'happy place' - a place where I knew who I was - a bookworm as opposed to being the new girl in a strange new environment. At one particularly awkward phase of my life, I'd suffer from terrible anxiety and panic attacks at the idea of walking into a new classroom and in order to breathe again, I'd visit the only place on campus where I felt OK - the library.

And in the library, I could go anywhere in books and forget about my life for a little while. I remember reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi for the first time and The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell and I was transported to different times and places and I became Charlotte and Karana. And libraries gave me access to that sort of freedom.

When I was older, I began volunteering in my school libraries. My high school librarian, Nicola, in particular gave me wonderful recommendations (she was the first person to introduce me to the Collected Works of Jane Austen and how I am grateful to her for that!) and she'd actually listen to my suggestions for what to stock in the library. As I was going through my social justice phase during the early years of my high school career, on my suggestion, the library became stocked with books about self-harm and the autobiographies of Waris Dirie, the model who underwent female genital mutilation in Africa. Nicola and I would bounce our favourite books off of each other and I'd end up reading books by authors that I'd never consider before - Isabel Allende and John Steinbeck and Sylvia Plath.

I will always have very fond memories of libraries from my childhood. Libraries are absolute havens of knowledge and inspiration and freedom. It gave me an escape from the difficult aspects of my life, libraries gave me hope and a place that I could breathe and be myself. They opened new worlds to me and helped me to be comfortable with who I am.

Many thanks to Michelle for that beautiful guest post.


  1. What a great guest post. It's lovely to hear how the love of books grows through your life. Libraries are a big part of this. x

  2. Great post! I love my library. I only buy books if I want them for a collection. i get all of the books I read from my local libraries. I have always loved the library. I can remember when my mom started taking me when I was 4 or so..

  3. Oh bless you, Susan and Becca for commenting on my guest post! (PHEW!)

    Libraries are very important and vital to every community.


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