My earliest memories of library visits were when I was at Primary (Elementary) School. During some classroom lessons the teacher would bring around the “library cart”, a trolley with assorted books for us to choose from. It wasn’t an entirely free choice though. The teacher would only allow you to take a book that was considered appropriate for your reading level. Classes in the mid-sixties were large and I guess the teachers did not have time to spend helping kids with books that had harder words. I think that was a shame because many of them might have learned more from reading a hard book they were interested in than from an easy one that bored them.
We also had a school library and once or twice a week there would be a library lesson. I looked forward to these as I liked to read but I often found the time-wasting very frustrating. The library had wooden tables and chairs and when we arrived everyone had to sit down and be quiet and then we would be allowed to go and choose a book one table at a time. I used to get so impatient for it to be my turn so I could get my book. As I said, classes were large, up to forty children so sometimes it was quite a long wait. Finally, I would find an interesting looking book and settle down to read but not for long. “Put your books down.” we’d be commanded. It was time for the Librarian to tell us about new books that had arrived or read to us from a book she had chosen. For me, this was the equivalent of an advertisement and it really annoyed me. We only had an hour in the library and I wanted to read MY book. We were allowed to borrow books to take home but I didn’t always do this as it involved speaking to a teacher. I was shy and did not want to be judged on my reading material. I would put my book away and try to find it again next time I was in the library. I think this may be why I have a thing for keeping my books in alphabetical order. It makes them easier to find.
The local lending library was another place I knew well as a child. Mum took Naomi and I there when she thought we were old enough to have library cards and the library at Elizabeth South became one of the first places I was allowed to go alone that was outside of our immediate neighbourhood. I did feel important going to the library on my own. Later a brand new library was built in the city centre and I would sometimes visit there too.
In High School, I spent many lunch hours in the school library reading. When I was fourteen I changed schools and as I didn’t know anyone at the new school I looked forward to visiting the library at lunchtime. I was horrified to find out that I could only visit twice a week. Girls and boys were not allowed in the library at the same time and one day was for senior students only. I was so angry. I could not understand why they had such a stupid rule.
So you could say that libraries played quite a large part in my early years and even though I rarely visit one now I have great affection for them.