Mr Darcy had it right from the start. In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice the romantic hero was in a discussion with the catty Miss Bingley on what qualifies a woman to be described as “accomplished.” Miss Bingley lists a variety of attributes including musical knowledge, dancing and foreign languages. Mr Darcy concludes the discussion with:
“and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
Extensive reading is required to inspire and motivate us (women and men alike) to accomplishment. Reading increases your understanding of the world, it introduces you to different cultures, it teaches you how to think and dream, and it provokes you to recognise that all people are people, capable of the same complex thoughts and emotions as yourself. Reading inspires compassion and tolerance.
And what can facilitate extensive reading better than a library?
I have now fallen into a rough pattern of visiting my library every three weeks or so, I draw out three books at a time or six if I am going to have any time off work. I don’t finish all the books I check out, is I read the first three chapters and find that I am dissatisfied I put the book down and pick another one.
So here are some reasons why I like using my library:
- It’s free!
- I get to frequently change what I am reading and have a wide variety of material to choose from.
- It allows me to take risks in my reading and discover new things. The last book I read was called “A Trick I Learned from Dead Men” by Kitty Aldridge. It was about an oddly detached young man working in a funeral parlour and raising his deaf teenage brother. It was a couple of shades darker and murkier than my normal reading but I loved it all the same. I felt completely immersed in this guy’s life and his pattern of thoughts were truly unnerving and yet my heart was stirred to sympathy for him. Being able to take a chance on a book opens up fantastic opportunities.
- I can wallow in chick lit indulgence and happy endings, until my heart grows all perky with optimistic hope. Which is no bad thing in a mixed up world.
- You get a little snapshot pictures of your community. My library always seems to be full of children bossing their siblings around the shelves, old quiet gentlemen rustling newspapers at tables and rough looking, but jovial sounding, men taking up all of the computers.
- It leads me to my true love(s). Every now and again you read a book that absorbs you to the point where your actual surroundings melt away. Turning your eyes away from the page feels like emerging from underwater back to the surface land. The characters dwell in your thoughts as vivid and influential as real people. When I find a book like that in my Library I know I will one day return to its pages so I purchase it at the next opportunity and it gains a permanent home in my book case.
- The ideals behind our Library are noble. Libraries exist because somewhere in our past it was decided that literature and knowledge must be accessible to everyone, that great ideas are not to be owned exclusively by the elite, but every person should have the chance to improve their own education and imagination by having access to books. The library is a powerful and beautiful institution and we are privileged to have them. So let’s use them!