When I was in primary school, my favourite place to hang out at lunchtimes was the Library. Tucked away on a bean bag cushion in the ‘Forensic Science’ section was where I would always snuggle to read for umpteenth time my Harry Potter books. I was so obsessed with al things Hogwarts that my teacher was concerned that I should “branch out” a little in the reading tree. But she never knew that in my breaks between class that I was getting my Harry Potter fix in the library. I was also smart enough to form a strong relationship with the librarians. They would put the latest addition fantasy books aside for me and never ever questioned my love for all things Hogwarts. My grade six self really knew her priorities. The library, as a place of worship, has always understood my faith.
As a now reasonably together adult whenever I walk into a library, the feelings of tranquillity rush through my veins. My shoulders seem to a drop a little and that breath of anxiety I was holding onto exhales. Bliss. I get a very similar rush whenever I walk into any sort of bookstore. But the catch with the library is that all the books are free (if you return them on time) Any struggling university student or mortgage paying person understands the joy in anything marked ‘free.’
Three years ago my boyfriend and I decided to something extremely outrageous and, to some, very unnecessary. “Let’s go on holiday in out own city!” I overexcitedly suggested. I still think he was pretty bloody brilliant to agree and not laugh in my face. Maybe he was just happy I hadn’t suggested an overseas trip. I often go through stages of wanting to be a cultural and adventurous human being. This dear reader was one of those times.
It turned out that we had the most fabulous time wandering the streets of our own city, lapping up our annual leave and the joys of not having to get up for work for the day. The city was our playground and I remember being so excited that it didn’t rain. Melbourne weather is rebellious at the best of times.
It was when we had to decided to stop for a delicious lunch at Grill’d (If you dear reader had never heard of this chain restaurant- they serve burgers crafted by the gods themselves) that I found it. Just sitting there in ‘The Corner’ of Melbourne Central. It was the cutest place I had ever seen. Just waiting for me to step inside…
‘The Little Library’ of Melbourne Central is a communal sight for book borrowing. It exists upon an honest policy that if you borrow from this collection of once loved treasures, you will be honourable enough to return the book (or replace with another.)
I was blown away by all by the simplicity of a community library for the people of Melbourne. Amazingly, there were bookworms of all sorts just waltzing in to return their books and swap it for another exciting read. This place was such a non-magical thing for them!
Dear reader, I know I am not alone in suffering from a very beautiful syndrome that can only be described as one whom “never leaves the house without a book in her bag.” Because quite frankly my dear I don’t give a damn and you just never know where you might end up for the day. It turns out on this particular day, I did not have a book squashed inside the nooks and crannies of my handbag. As an honest citizen of Melbourne I knew there would be no book exchange for me that day. If I was going to borrow a book, I was going to do it right. I walked away from ‘The Little Library’ feeling sunken and disappointed that I didn’t get the Full Monty of ‘The Little Library’ experience. If I remember correctly, I went and purchased a $10 book from ‘The Book Grocer’ to cheer me up. I don’t even know what it was called.
The rush of retail therapy managed to tame my sadness over ‘The Little Library,’ but there has always been a part of me that has wanted to go in and swap my own book for one of the Library’s. I finally got that chance just last week when I organised to go into Melbourne Central with my best friend. Who couldn’t resist the opportunity to go and visit a local library that keeps on giving?!
My best friend and I are part of a book club together and recently finished reading Tim Winton’s ‘Eyrie.’ Even though he is an amazing Australian author, we felt that the story was an appropriate choice to place in the library. It wasn’t a book either one of us would read again and both felt this story needed the chance to confuse other Melbourne readers out there. Books always deserve a second chance.
We scoured the walls for the perfect match and it took us an unhealthy amount of time to make our decision. We needed time to sort through all the (surprisingly, mostly erotic) titles to find the perfect choice. My best friend picked up ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold, a book freshly dropped off from a happy reader. She had actually read the story in high school and was intrigued to read it from an entirely new perspective. It was meant to be.
I had in my hands a book called ‘Scandal’ by Kate Brian because I liked the title, but quickly put it down after I found a book sticking out on the very top shelf. It was not a novel at all, but a literary magazine called ‘Visible Ink’ published by RMIT University in Melbourne. It was issue 24 in the collection called ‘fleshy husks and brittle bones.’ The tagline “what does it mean to be human?” intrigued me so much that I new this edition was the perfect choice for my book swap.
Visiting ‘The Little Library’ gave me all the joy I experienced browsing and reading in the library as my primary school self. Just walking into a space filled with books is a guaranteed activity to fill my book loving soul with happiness and I am sure dear reader you will personally have your own happy place. Amongst the hustle and bustle of weather moody Melbourne, it is so lovely to have a designated spot to celebrate the wonders of books. You feel more connected to the heart and soul of the city. If you are ever in the area make sure you pop down and visit ‘The Little Library,’ or try to research community based libraries in your area. Be a tourist in your own city. You may just surprise yourself what you find. But remember if you’re daring enough to borrow a book, be sure to return a book of sorts in it’s place so the magic of ‘The Little Library’ can continue…
Miss Book Dependent xo