I tried to read the library…. (Guest Blog)

by Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on April 28, 2015 in Libraries

I fell in love with a damp mobile library when I was five years old.  Unlikely as it may sound, this has been perhaps my most satisfying love affair to date – no waning of affection, no tedious and drunken fights, and no domestic grievances; just satisfaction, and the knowledge that if this book wasn’t […]

I fell in love with a damp mobile library when I was five years old. Unlikely as it may sound, this has been perhaps my most satisfying love affair to date – no waning of affection, no tedious and drunken fights, and no domestic grievances; just satisfaction, and the knowledge that if this book wasn’t that great, well there was certainly a great one coming up soon.

The mobile library used to pull up on the main road opposite our house, and I think it was always raining because there was a certainly damp smell in the mobile library. But it wasn’t only damp; it was exciting and mysterious too. The mobile library was, of course, full of books, and for me that meant it was full of everything that was interesting about life.

After a few years, Blanchardstown then got itself a fancy new library in the Roselawn Shopping Centre. I was very lucky because I was no Cotton Wool Kid; my parents gave me a lot of freedom and I was allowed to walk down to the library on my own whenever I wished. I can still remember the shock of electricity I felt when I realised that the Paddington book that I had just read wasn’t a one-off –there was a WHOLE SERIES of them. And I had a library card, so I could read every single one of them! As often as I liked!

I’m not sure if I will ever again experience the singular thrill of anticipation as I hurried down to the library after school, knowing that all the books were there waiting for me, in alphabetical order, and I could read them as many times as I wanted to. I mostly stuck to the children’s side of the library as there seemed to be more than enough to get along with there. I estimated (rightly) that I would barely have time to read them all before I became a grown-up and got stuck into the adult section. Just like Patrick Kavanagh, these were my Alps and I climbed the Matterhorn, maybe not with a sheaf of hay, but instead with a glint in my eye, and a determination to read every single book in the children’s section of the Blanchardstown library.

And I nearly did.

But a whole other side of the library arrived into my life when I was 10-years old and in fourth class. My teacher told us that we had to do a school project on anything we wanted; he then delivered a serious speech about how we had to research it and include everything there was to know on the subject. I decided – perhaps a tad ambitiously – to do a project on ‘Birds’. My family didn’t have a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and so off I went to the library every day after school to do my project.

I have to laugh when I think back on the hours and hours, the days and days, the weeks and weeks that I spent in Blanchardstown library doing my fourth class school project. I was fully determined to write a complete and comprehensive project on all the birds in this planet. As the weeks unfolded, I couldn’t help but notice that the rest of my schoolmates didn’t seem to be giving every moment of their days to their school project, ‘Ah well,’ I thought to myself, ‘they mustn’t have chosen such a big subject.’ And when I handed in my massive project on ‘Birds’ – I truly thought (in my innocence) that everything that was worth knowing about birds on this planet was in that project. I can still remember that the albatross can fly for thousands of miles without flapping its wings. And I can still remember sitting in the library trying to get my head around that single and shocking fact.

Eventually I grew up and moved out of Blanchardstown and when I began to earn money as an adult I began to buy more books than I borrowed. But I’ve never really re-captured the excitement of hurrying down to the library to check out the books that were all filed in alphabetical order; ready and waiting for me to read the library.

By Guest Blogger, Author Stella O’Malley