"A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination...they are the only sheltered public places where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead."
Caitlin Moran, The (London) Times, Dec 8th, 2011
Despite my professional qualification in library science, in mid-life I rarely went inside public libraries. A quick visit to a chain bookstore or to Amazon took care of my literary cravings.
Yet today libraries are a favourite hangout of mine, either online or, better, there in the flesh. In an era where none of us need venture beyond our digital e-readers, I'm thrilled by the sight of books and media piled up on racks and shelves in a cornucopia of delights. Once back home I pore over newspaper book reviews and e-mailed library lists of new additions.
What I can't get on inter-library loan, I may find in used book and recorded music shops. There's little that beats an hour or two pleasantly shuffling along shelves or into racks with an eye out for a gently-used bibliographic or audio gem.
When the hard-nosed mayor of our metropolitan neighbour, Toronto, announced that he would limit library access as a budget measure, he was soon put to flight by famous international author Margaret Attwood using her Twitter account to foster outrage. Libraries may be the only places where teenagers and children spend quality time in a restful setting with older folk about. They are custodians of local culture and the church of the literate.