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Posts tagged ‘libraries’

Making good use of our time

As we wait for jobs to be completed we have been making good use of our time. We hoped to get the grass cut using the mower but, alas, it refused to start. After calling the mechanics (“Will be up to you, soonish”) we picked away at the grass and weeds. Jacqui wielded the strimmer and I cut back some of the ever growing thistles and nettles. I have also been weeding the wild flower bed, removing the corn and we have been rewarded with a growing number of poppies. Definitely a good use of our time.

Poppies in the “corn field”

As the nearest large(ish) town is about 15 miles away we tend to do several things on one trip. Shopping, of course, and trips to the recycling centre. Sometimes we combine the bank, the fishmonger and the doctor – though not necessarily in that order. This week we finally got around to joining the library, taking a set of my books as a gift.

I have to say how impressed I am with the public library system in Ireland. The staff were extremely welcoming, joining was a doddle as I had my Irish driving license with me and the range of services astounded me. First off I can borrow up to twelve books for three weeks. There are no fines for late returns though they do send increasingly sad texts as a reminder. Then I learned I could use any library in the Republic with my card. Away on holiday somewhere? No problem. Just borrow some books and if you’ve not finished you can return them to any library on your return home. Wow.

The other services are equally impressive. I can request any book from any library from the catalogue and collect it from the branch of your choice. I sometimes used the inter-library loan scheme in the UK but with little success. The wait was often very long and frequently the books never arrived. Here it is a truly joined-up service and now my books are available to every reader in Ireland!

That’s not all. I can remote borrow both e-books and audio books on my ticket using a pin number. I can also download and read newspapers from across the world and (if I ever wanted to) magazines. And it is all free! There were young people inside the new, light building, reading, taking notes and using the computers. There are special holiday groups covering story reading, writing and even Lego figures inspired by favourite books. There’s a volunteer group who visit housebound residents and deliver books or read to them. That is really what a library service should be.

Owls watching the playground

Just around the corner from the library is a Primary school and driving past we spotted a beautiful wooden carving of two owls looking down into the playground. A lot of trees are lost in the high winds and rather than just chopping them down these have been transformed. As we drive around, exploring the little roads that radiate out from the town, we have seen some lovely things.

Tended with love
Always makes us smile

On the way home from shopping we have encountered a very old man who has planted the verges and hedgerows around his house. The result is beautiful – flowers, bushes and contrasting hedges run on both sides of the road. Whenever we see him we stop and exchange greetings. The first time we told him how much we liked his work. “Them’s kind words”” he said. Well, that is kind work he does, and certainly time well spent. As we drove past this week I thought of my father, a passionate and highly skilled gardener. I could see him doing something like that.

We are fighting a seemingly endless fight against the “sticky Willy” to the south and bindweed to the north of the house. Sticky Willy has crept (or blown) into Betsy’s Corner and we had to put scaffolding boards across the back to reach the overgrown parts at the back. They will suffocate some of the bigger plants, though we may lose a few bulbs too. Still, it is looking a lot better now. I need to keep on top of the problem as left for even a few days it is back again. A small amount of time spent on that can save a lot of weeding.

So we are moving forward despite the inevitable delays in getting stuff finished. We now have Irish number plates for the bikes though not crash helmets. Those necessitate a trip to Limerick, alas. We have all the meters and most of the infrastructure for the pump system safe in the Majestic and the meters are ticking away merrily. The guest room upstairs is finally taking shape and we still have time to read, to draw and to write. Our days are full but we feel more rested now after the last few frantic years. Above all we have more choices.

We are making good use of our time!

In praise of libraries

I am a fan of libraries. Big ones, little ones, those wonderful book buses – show me a library and I find myself smiling. I owe my professional life to libraries – really. Without access to books I would not be writing this today. I would never have worked as a lecturer, survived the education system or become a writer. Libraries have been a lifeline for me.

I began to read very early, partly as I was bored, I think. I have dyspraxia – a form of spatial dyslexia – so I did not walk until after my third birthday According to my mother, I sat in a corner and shouted until someone brought me what I wanted – often a book of some kind, which at least kept me quiet. Then I went to school and the fact I could already read caused some consternation but I had a very smart teacher who pointed me to the Book Corner (remember those?) and, once I’d read everything there, let me sneak into the hall and take books from the Junior library. I was in heaven.

Then it all went wrong. Moving up to the second year Infant class, my new teacher (who’s name, fortunately, escapes me), decided I was not really reading at all, just showing off. She gave me the prescribed “reading book” for the term (!!) and asked me to read aloud. I couldn’t. I still find it hard and when I do readings and signings I practise for days beforehand. Aged six, I had a terrible stammer and half-way down the first page I burst into tears. Suddenly I was stuck with just one book for the term and until I read the whole horrible text aloud to this woman, I was barred from even the Infant library, let alone the now-forbidden Junior shelves.

On returning home that afternoon I told my mother I was never going back to school again. A remarkable and intelligent woman, she put me on the back of her bicycle and we made our way into the nearby town centre. Here I was signed up for the children’s library and given two pink tickets. Surrounded by more books than I had ever seen in one place, I agreed to go back to school – and keep my under-aged reading habit a secret.

That library kept me sane, in the midst of the crushing boredom of the second year Infants. By the time I was ten I’d consumed the Junior library too – dyspraxic, remember? So I never played out unless forced. I couldn’t skip, or catch a ball or even run without tripping over my own feet so I read – and read -and read. For my tenth birthday the local library staff gave me a quick test (to see if I really had read everything) and presented me with one illicit, precious grey ticket for the Adult section.

I wish I could go back now and thank them, show them all what a difference they made to my life.
I hope we will somehow salvage our library system and keep it safe, to pass on to the next generation of young readers. Yes, I’m a writer and I have a vested interest in getting them hooked on books but somewhere out there is a child just like me. I want them to have the same chances I had.