One correspondent I really enjoy reading in the Sunday Times is Brannavan Gnanalingam. I find his comments refreshing and honest.
Last weekend he wrote an article labelled “I love libraries”. Here are a couple of extracts from the article:
It’s weird that libraries feel like anachronisms. They’re spaces occupying high-value real estate in a city or a suburb, simply for the purpose of allowing everyday people to read their collections, (mostly) for free. There’s so much trust placed in the public: they can take books home on the expectation that they’d be returned and shared among – well – anyone else. But they’re such a glorious anachronism in that they are built around the idea of community and sharing and knowledge. That a space exists for anyone to come together and learn communally, even if it’s silently.
And then he concluded:
People who see everything as having a price, struggle to see the value in libraries. That culture is something that’s disposable and torchable. I miswrote earlier when I said libraries were an anachronism. After all, they’re potent symbols of community that can help navigate the future.
I have huge admiration for libraries and for library staff. When you think about the role of libraries and the service they provide; they are the grease which lubricates a democratic society. At libraries people can find support, advice and information. People can rest there and recharge. A library is a place where egalitarianism reigns. Everybody is equal. Saint and sinner. For the poor it’s a warm site to visit. For a child a place of wonder. For a student a place of knowledge and information. For the rest of us we are thrilled the library service is there for the betterment of our society.
This article reminded me of one of my jobs as an accountant at CPIT, now called Ara. I was desperately trying to retrench budgets to balance the books. So, I cut the library budget. To say all hell let loose would understate things somewhat. The CPIT librarian was a larger-than-life character (beaten only by her husband) called Marge Anderson. She could have been related to Marge Simpson, but her hair was died black, not blue. Marge rewrote the meaning of indignation during our budget “debate”.
I had always sat with the smokers at morning and afternoon tea. They were the librarians. All of a sudden, I was on my own. An outcast. An albatross chick abandoned by its parents.
This was war and Marge only wore black to work during the siege. I was feeling abandoned and misunderstood. Remember librarians have the best morning and afternoon teas during the day, and the best wine at parties. And I was now looking in on their lives…
A stalemate eventuated and something had to be done. Neither side was budging. So, our Associate Director Jean, later Dame Jean, Herbison called a high-level meeting, with drinks, in the Board room. Marge and her team (including Penny Carnaby who went on to become the head of the National Library, and who is now a regular at the Tuesday Club) sat down one side and the Registrar, Ralph Knowles, and I sat down the other. Jean sat in the middle. Jean was an amazing person and a great pioneering educator. However, her version of us all having drinks together was one small glass of sherry each.
The sherry must have worked, or desperation for another drink caused an adverse reaction in my body, as I collapsed under pressure and restored the library budget. I can’t remember but I bet Marge got an increase. I was then invited back to the library section of the staff room and peace reigned supreme.
I have never challenged a library budget since. Over the years I have learned that Librarians have winning ways and, as I said before, the best morning and afternoon teas and drinkie sessions. I can’t recall ever having sherry again with librarians, but my memory could be failing.
Here’s our prize library, Turanga
Here’s the New Brighton library which is now about 25 years old:
When I think about the magnificent people who work in our libraries in Christchurch. And those who went before them. We must raise our glasses (alright, a small sherry if you insist) to their good health and the essential role that they play in a democratic society.
I wonder if Marge ever forgave me in the bottom of her heart? She did stop wearing black.
Here’s the article which sparked this off https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/300244675/i-love-libraries.