Ah, the heady mix an of an unidentified musty odour, old paper and individuals who perhaps don’t come into contact with a shower as often as they should. Combine this with the librarian who looks like she has been a bad mood for the past decade, the manual swing entry gates that don’t seem to exist anywhere else on earth and a place where a laminated card still has some value. I am of course talking about one of my favourite places to frequent and that is the temple of words that is the library.
When I was a child our mother would often take us on trips to the local library, where we had the privilege of exchanging our laminated cards for new books that were ours for a limited period allowing us access to a whole world of stories and endless words to keep us content. Only in my adult years did I discover that it was only my germ-obsessed mother who would not allow us to read the books until she had thoroughly disinfected the covers with Dettol, and it was not in fact a condition set out by the strict code of library conduct as she had us believe.
Looking back on it now, I am sure a trip to the all mighty temple of words was seen as a real treat and being given the opportunity to pick one or even two books and if you were really lucky a book on tape (do they still exist??) was the highlight of my week. I still remember the library assistant authoritatively stamping the return date on the inside of the book followed by a glare that meant if you miss this deadline you face the wrath of the head librarian and no-body wanted to mess with the head librarian.
I cannot say with absolute certainty, but I do get the feeling that for kids today (of course I am generalising here) a trip to the local library might be seen as some sort of punishment where the thought of being taken away from their digital devices for even a few minutes must be the cruel result of something they have done wrong. I am sure this is not true of all kids, and I am determined for mine to be amongst the ones who still find it a treat and get as much pleasure from a visit to the temple as I do.
So, when Lucas’s nursery took the kids on a trip to our local biblioteca I was keen on joining to re-live some of those childhood memories and also insert some well needed culture into my daily schedule forcing me away from my own digital devices. Upon arrival we were ‘greeted’ (note – I use the term very loosely here) by the librarian and all the old library memories came flooding back!
We joined the other children who seemed to be enjoying their educational field trip and I thought what a great idea this was. Five minutes later… the 2-3 year olds were running around in the ‘no-go’ areas with preserved books & rather than adhering to the code of silence screaming as loud as their lungs could allow, the 1-2 year olds were getting their hands on every single book they could from every single shelf (using stools for the inaccessible ones so as to wreak as much havoc as possible) and spreading the books across the floor like a sea of paper, and the under 1’s were attempting to climb every climbable & non-climbable surface they could find. As the feeling of serenity and calm that usually accompanies a library visit started to wash away, I caught sight of one of the librarians who looked like her day to retire had come early. In a desperate attempt not to anger the library staff further (still have some strange power over me) I begin to gather as many books as I can and re-shelve them. This of course is an act of total naivety as for every book I replace there is a small child behind me pulling 2 more off the shelf and making my efforts totally redundant.
As I look around the room that looks like a mini tornado has hit it, I wonder how the other library goers feel about this wonderful trip for the kids and our efforts at integrating them into community life. I am all for it, and I think as a parent you generally are behind any activity if you believe there is some value to your little one. But, being on the other side as a member of the community without kids or ones that have grown up so feel they’ve done their time, I can’t help but feel how annoying it must often be for people who are just looking for an escape to find themselves amongst a group of sugared-up kids set on having a scream-off! Of course, I think it is just life and one simply has to deal with it, but I have to say for any library goer who was searching for their time of silent worship in the Vila Olimpica biblioteca last Tuesday morning my sincerest apologies go out to you.
Now, where’s that bottle of Dettol…