I’m lucky to live near a fantastic West Auckland library. It’s one of the newer ones, with the high ceilings and glass walls. It’s not Devonport good, but it’s pretty high up there. I went there every day for six months while I wrote my Master’s thesis. I studied there with friends while I completed my Bachelor’s. It’s there I run into local friend Brian*.
Brian is a regular at the library. He also pops by the chapel for their free weekly meal. Last I spoke to Brian he told me he was living out of his car. Most of the locals know Brian. Brian gets by.
The library near me is a hotchpotch of sorts. It more or less reflects the place where I live. The area is confused, an odd lolly-scramble.
On the water-facing side, three-storey town houses look towards the Sky Tower. On front lawns; those new, alien trampolines – the ones with the nets around them. In driveways; gleaming RAV4s.
Deeper inland, the trampolines are frayed. Springs are missing. Instead of RAV4s, there are rusted out Subarus.
Both spiritually and physically, I live somewhere between the two. As does the township. Two dollar shops sit beside cafes with manifestos on the walls. Eight different hairdressers offer differently priced dos.
Back when I was a child, the library reflected the humble side of my neighbourhood. I remember grey, maybe brown carpets. Perhaps it had one of those ceilings with thousands of tiny holes. Perhaps my memory is filling in the blanks. All I remember clearly are the books.
Actually, all I really remember are the Young Adult books. I spent hours in that corner, running my fingers along their colourful spines.
I used to write lists of the type of books I’d pick up. One romance novel, one detective, novel. One blue novel, one pink novel. You’re probably realising I wasn’t the coolest kid in town.
That building, with its possibly-grey carpet, originally built in the 1960s, was torn down in 2013 - eventually replaced with the aforementioned glass. Which isn't as dystopian as it sounds. As romantic as ‘built in the 1960s’ sounds, sometimes it just means old. I quickly fell in love with the new spot. It housed the same books. It housed more books.
Closing our libraries, which COVID-19 has forced us to do, feels like cutting off our collective air supply. Of course I support the decision, and I don’t think the nation’s libraries should open a second before it’s safe to do so. Keeping our citizens (and our mighty librarians) safe is of the utmost importance. But when we do transition into that stage of our recovery, I reckon libraries are gonna play a huge role.
It will be there that many of our unemployed turn for guidance. It will be there that our students will go in order to study someplace other than their bed. God willing, it will be there that young kids will discover their love of reading.
In the meantime, check out their online resources. The Auckland link is here. Unlike most assets under capitalism, libraries belong, solidly, to the people. You don’t have to be rich to utilize them, and neither do you have to be poor.
The library is yours. When we get them back, let’s make the most of them.
*Not his real nameSupport Villainesse