Liz and the Library – A Life-long Love

Picture of a list of borrowed library books by Liz BlackX

Copyright Liz BlackX
A list of library books I borrowed, date unknown

All my life, I’ve loved libraries from reading as a child to studying as a teenager and student, back to reading novels as an adult. I have many fond memories of spending time in libraries, but they’re not a part of my life anymore. How did this journey go, and why did it end?

Children’s Literature

As a kid, we went to the library often. Lending books there and buying them second hand were where I got most of my reading material. Of course, I had some new books too, but they were expensive then as they are now.
I remember one visit to the library specifically. My father asked the librarian if it was okay for me to read from the adult department instead of the children’s section, as in books for grown-ups. He said I had finished all the children’s books. I remember thinking that was a lie. I looked around, and I hadn’t read all the books by far. But I felt so special being able to select a book for grown-ups.

Schoolwork Research

As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in the library. A lot of it was spent on doing research for school projects. Looking up the right book, see if it held the correct information and then make photocopies of these pages. It’s hard to imagine that’s really how it went in the nineties.
I would go alone, or together with friends. It was part of our routine.
I remember how special it was for me to find information for a school project on the internet for the first time. I didn’t even need to leave the house for it. I feel ancient for saying this, but children nowadays really don’t know what is available to them.

University Research

During my studies at the university, naturally, I also visited the library a lot. The one we had at my university was depressingly small, so I often went to the Royal Library in The Hague. They have every book that has ever been available in print in The Netherlands, so you could say they have a vast collection.
While I was a student, I also visited London once and went to the British Library. As a tourist, I could only see the general areas, but my mind was blown with what was shown there. Books from the 11th century I had just studied during Old English classes and original manuscripts of both Chaucer and Shakespeare. I felt so connected with history, seeing the original works.

Historical Fiction

Around this time, I also signed up to my local library. I remember how I felt walking between these rows and rows of books. It was pure magic. In theory, I could take all these books home with me. That’s also when I found one of my all-time favourite books: Roma by Steven Saylor. It’s a historical fiction account taking you through different parts of the religions and battles in and around Ancient Rome.

The ‘Experience’

Today, I don’t visit the local library anymore. And no, that has nothing to do with Covid. The library here has few books in English and even less in the fantasy and science fiction genres. They changed the general outlook of the library. I suppose having straight rows of books was too boring to the public nowadays. Everything has to be about the ‘experience.’ Books are divided into different categories, as they have always been, I know. But instead of having just a section for ‘novels,’ everything now has to be subdivided to every specific category you can think of. You used to find this information in the catalogue, of course, but now they need to take you by the hand and shove the most popular books in your face. It’s not a place of secret discovery anymore. These are the bestsellers, and that is what you should read. They even remove books that are of unwanted political colour.

Newer is Always Better

So no, I don’t visit the library anymore. Instead, I find my books online, through services like bookchoice.com or other websites. I read all my books through the iOS Books app so that Apple tracks my reading time and registers how many books I finish.
In a way, I am sorry things have changed so much and no, not all for the better. Like with music, I now have access to all the books in the world, but I’ve lost my magical visits to the library. Going there with the excitement of possibly finding the next favourite book.
Now I read blogs and scour Reddit for my next life-altering book. At the moment I’m immersed in the Terry Goodkind ‘Sword of Truth’ series. For right now, I’m content enough with it. And who knows where I’ll find my next favourite?

Picture of a list of borrowed library books by Liz BlackX

Copyright Liz BlackX
Some of the library books (‘bibliotheekboeken’) I borrowed in 1993. Pay close attention to the Enid Blyton books: ‘De Dolle Tweeling in Spanning’ and ‘Pitty’s Tweede Kostschooljaar,’ respectively ‘Claudine at St. Clare’s’ and ‘The Second Form at Malory Towers’

13 Comments

  1. I remember my school days in the library too, and how many books I used to read back then. Each school had its own library, which was brilliant. I don’t go to the library anymore either, simply because I find it too modern and impersonal.
    ~ Marie

    1. Too modern, yes! That’s my opinion too. And libraries try way too hard to get people to read and I don’t think it’s working, really. However unfortunate that may be…

      Lizblackx
  2. When I was young i was a loner and like u spent a lot of time in the library – I loved the very smell of it. And when I was at uni I adored walking thru the school library – but i agree suddenly just having books there – in organised sections was not good enough. I would like to visit again though – one day
    May xx

  3. I miss going to the library. Only within the last 5 years have I stopped going to the library. The last 5 years has been taken up with the family and books all come from the kids school library’s shelves or online retailers.
    I loved walking in and seeing what was on the new release shelf.
    Our library would also have a shelf near the front for staff favorites, or what they just read with a card posted on what they liked and why. I miss visiting the racks, looking things up in the card catalog or even learning the computer system. I would take trips in High school on off days to the Milwaukee Central Library they had everything and things the local library’s could order but here they were on the shelf. This week I found the Library of Congress Digital Archive. Now that is a bunny hole I will gladly follow the March Hare down soon.

    1. I agree that walking around in the library was the best part. For me it was the sense of wonder what I would encounter that I loved the most. The last times I went to the library where I live now, I would reserve books from home and that just didn’t feel as special.

      I hope you’ll enjoy the Digital archive you found 🙂

      Lizblackx
  4. I still love libraries—though they are closed because of the pandemic. But a good book store is like a library too (also closed??). I do read digital books and the ease of access is delightful, but there is something about a hard copy of a book. Makes my soul sing!!

    1. Yes, absolutely. Literally turning a page, smelling a book, seeing by how many pages you have left whether you think the main hero is going to live or die…
      Now it’s just digits on a screen.
      But at least we still have books 😀

      Lizblackx
  5. I loved the library as a child but I never went much after finishing my degree. So much knowledge is available from my computer anyway. I did check out the digital library but they only offer novels or simple non-fiction books….pretty much only entertainment. Nothing wring with that but they ought to have a broader selection.

    1. Yes, I see what you mean. And there’s nothing wrong with the novels or bestsellers I mentioned, per se, but often they’re pretty empty books. They’re only discussed in the many talkshows we have over here or their authors are table guests of the daily talkshows. Little literary value ? (And I hate literature, but that’s another story ?)

      Lizblackx
  6. Yes, we have lost the spirit of the library and reading room, but we gained the ability to quickly access unlimited (almost) worldwide literature and information. Apparently this is our payment for progress. I’m afraid there will be no return to the past. Just as now, it would never occur to anyone to saddle a horse, setting off on a long journey.

    1. I agree there’s no going back to the past. I’m surprised there are other people like me who miss the way things were.

      And yes, we do have an unlimited amount of information and books available to us now, but at the same time censorship is rising from all sides. Like I said, some books are taken from the library because we now think differently. Platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook censor everything they don’t agree with. When will that stop?

      Lizblackx

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