Libraries

Toronto Reference Library interior, Toronto, C...

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As I write this, my shelves hold 50 books from the Toronto Public Library (the maximum you can have out at a time), and I’ve placed holds on 46 more (four away from the maximum for that, too).

I really, really, really like libraries.

It’s a great improvement over standing in bookstores, trying to figure out which one of ten books I would get, furtively skimming through books to absorb the content and writing style so that I could pick the keepers (or simply slurp the ideas from the book, and move on).

I still buy books. I buy them to give to friends, or to turn to for handy inspiration.

But oh, the library…

My first memory of a library outside the bookshelves that lined our house was the Learning Resource Center (or LRC) at my grade school. In addition to rows and rows of shelves, it had colorful books in a small carpeted play area. I’d often curl up there with random things I’d pull off the shelves: classic fiction alternated with Disney stories, reference books matched with fairytales.

My high school library had the largest dictionary I’d ever seen, reference books galore, and a decent collection of science fiction and other novels. I remember coming across a list of phobias and manias in a psychology reference once, and being absolutely fascinated by the names that people had given all these concepts. My favorite was trichorrhexophobia, the fear of splitting hairs. But Google can only find one page that has that term (aside from this one, once it’s indexed). Was it a figment of my teenage imagination, or have the years warped the spelling in my memories?

My university library had a computerized system. While I loved the ease of searching the catalog from my own computer (and even wrote a Perl script that scraped the search results into my database), I missed the familiarity of running into the same scrawled names on library check-out cards. But it was a huge library that spanned several stories, and it had so, so many books. I read and read and read.

And now this. Toronto. One of the largest library systems in the world. As a graduate student, I had access to the towering Robarts Library as well. I thought I’d miss the stacks a lot after I graduated, but the Toronto Public Library is immense and I can find almost everything I need (aside from scholarly publications, which I sometimes wish I still had easy access to, but ah well).

Someday, I want to build a library. There’s something about coming across books I would never have searched for, and I want to share that with the future.

  • Raymond Zeitler

    Ahhh, so now it’s clear why you relocated to Toronto! Well, it *is* a very fair city.

    I enjoy libraries immensely. I love them so much. In fact, when I go to a library I really ought to be accompanied by a chaperon. But I have so little time to read and I read fair slowly. I’d have to renew some of those 50 books at least a dozen times if I liked them all enough to want to read them cover-to-cover.

    Thanks for sharing one of your passions!

    I see that you’re blogging everyday this month. Are you signed up for NaBloWriMo or NaBloPoMo?

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    W-’s my primary reason for being here and putting up with winter. =) But while I’m here, I might as well look for other reasons to like the place, or else I’ll end up really, really homesick. Toronto has much to recommend it: public libraries and parks, diversity and colour, and other wonderful things… So now I have two homes!

    As for NaBloPoMo – no, it’s just a coincidence. I gave up on trying to stay up as late as W-, went back to my early-morning wake-ups, and tweaked my schedule so that I give myself time in the morning to write. That’s been very helpful so far. =)