If I could only go to a library…
This is a sad story. When I was growing up in the depths of the country, far away from human habitation and civilised society, there were no libraries. At least, there were none until I turned about 15, when a “mobile library”, a massive bus filled with books, would trundle through the little hamlet where I lived about every two weeks. I can still recall the joy of my first visit to the library bus. It was equivalent to how young people today might feel when they get their first mobile phone, i-pod or other fancy gadget.
Imagine the joy of a country bumpkin like me when I came to the city and discovered public libraries. You could join for nothing! They stayed in one place! You could take out unlimited books! I was filled with delight and greed for all those wonderful free books. And even now, when I leave a library with 25 books in a huge bag, I feel like a child at Christmas. I can hardly believe that our society provides such a wild, indulgent experience.
State Library of Victoria Reading Room with the glass dome overhead
Are you thinking, “Ms Green, get a life”? Of course you are. But I contend that libraries are an important part of our democratic and fairly enlightened society, as are elections, newspapers, juries, the rule of law and free universal education. Libraries make knowledge democratic. The internet helps, but not everyone can afford it – and it’s not always trustworthy either.
Libraries are usually ruled by educated people (often wearing glasses and hand-knits, you may think) who check what enters their catalogues. They cull the rubbish. They leave the gems. It may not always work perfectly, and it may not seem like a glamorous task, but by the end of this process you have, in any public library, a storehouse of knowledge, a treasure-chest of books and primary sources to help you as you study.
On Thursday at the State Library, one student asked our guide whether homeless people could use the library. “Of course,” she replied. That’s why I say our society is only fairly enlightened; we let people be homeless but not bookless. Perhaps when you grow up you will be able to help establish a fairer society where all people can have books and homes.
Anyway, when Redmond Barry set up the State Library in the 1850s, it was a proud moment in our history. (He went on to condemn Ned Kelly to death, a dramatic and memorable moment, but that’s another story.)
Divya and Emma in Experimedia; Daniel doing calligraphy; the girls concentrate on their work…
As thinkers, dreamers and historians, your starting-point and your ongoing inspiration can be your public library. You can learn ANYTHING because of public libraries. You don’t need money or fancy equipment, just a library card. And every now and then, as you revel in your reading, your knowledge, your power to learn and grow and think for yourself, remember that in the Middle Ages, few people had this opportunity. Back then, knowledge was in the hands of a few – and they didn’t always use it wisely. Here and now, we can all be in the know.
Use your knowledge wisely and for the common good! Have a great time!
Lachlan works on his artistry and challenges Aaron to a medieval task…
Rory and Eck-Jin master calligraphy; Stephen and Chris try out something more modern