Love your library on 14 February. Move over Valentine’s Day because 14 February is also Library Lovers’ Day.

Library Lovers’ Day is a chance for everyone to reconnect with the library and share the library love. To celebrate Library Lovers Day this year, a bunch of your favourite Australian authors have penned love letters to libraries, you can check out all the letters here, now. If you want to share your love of libraries, leave us your own love letter (or maybe a love note) in the comments section below or hit up the library on facebook, twitter or instagram  (hashtag #libraryloversday).

love letters to libraries - library lover day -graphic

Love Letters to Libraries

19 Australian authors have penned love letters to libraries (or in some cases to a specific library), take a look…

Sara Foster

AN ODE TO THE LIBRARY
You sit so humbly in our midst and offer us your treasures,
Within your walls are countless paths to life-affirming pleasures.
Your books are magic portals, your shelves a joy to roam,
And when we find something we like, you let us take it home.

You don’t ask us for money, you only aim to please,
And lend support while we explore life’s possibilities.
You are always there to welcome us, for study, rest or play.
You care not for outward trappings, you turn nobody away.

You give history safe harbour so we can hold it in our hands,
You offer up the future, watch us sail for promised lands.
From rhyme time to the knitting club, you’re there our whole lives through
And you never ask for thanks, but this poem’s thanks to you

– Sara Foster

 

Jock Serong

I love libraries for their celebration of ideas, and for their eternal, modest promise: in any given city or suburb or township, they will run their own race, never competing to be the latest or the loudest, the coolest or the crassest.

A library waits quietly while the world outside does its shouting. The worn and frazzled human staggers in, seeking refuge from the hammering, and the library says ‘Here is something that’s entirely new to you. And here, and here. And over there is a place where you can rest your weary bones, and think, and soak up the thoughts of others. Here is a place to backfill your soul with contemplation.’

– Jock Serong

 

Mark Smith

There are no glass doors at the entrance to my library, no beautiful domed reading room, no quiet cubicles and no comfortable armchairs to ease into. Living in a small coastal town, my library is on wheels. Twice weekly – always Wednesday and Saturday – the library bus nudges into the car park outside the post office, lowers its metal stairs and opens for business. When I step inside, I’m transported without the bus moving an inch.

The single aisle is narrow, but that just means you bump into people you know and strike up conversations about what they’ve been reading. Mostly, we love to read stories that reflect our lives – Favel Parrett and Gregory Day are local favourites, imbuing small town coastal life with mystery, intrigue and casts of characters we think we might know.

By the time the driver-cum-librarian has pulled up the stairs and shut the door, the faithful have dispersed with new books to get lost in, new worlds to negotiate and new characters to argue about. By one o’clock there’s just a vacant car park and the smell of diesel hanging in the air where the bus once sat. Visitors on any other day might think us lacking in culture, but we know – as sure as the tide rises and falls, as sure as the swell builds in the great Southern Ocean – the bus will be back, the stairs will be dropped and we’ll be transported once more by its cargo of stories.

– Mark Smith

 

Caroline Overington

Dear Library,

I grew up in a small house by the railway tracks in a town called Melton, on the old goldfields route, out to Ballarat. We always had books at home: Little Golden Books, mainly, and Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree, and mum liked Ngaio Marsh. If that seems a bit lean, it wasn’t, because besides the Golden Fleece Hotel, and the Golden Temple Chinese Restaurant, and Ollie’s Trolley fried chicken, Melton had a public library. I’m old now, but I can still remember how it felt to walk through the front door, with the knowledge and the understanding that I could choose as many as six books – any six – and take them away with me, free of charge.

I remember learning the Dewey Decimal System, and how you could tell how popular a book had been, or not, by looking at the little card on the inside cover. I remember school projects done in the Melton High School library, with librarians who taught me how to reference, when I was trying to get my HSC; and much, much later, after years of exploring libraries at universities and abroad, wondering if I had it in me to write a feminist history of a poor mother of nine – Louisa Collins – who was hanged at the Darlinghurst Gaol for the crime of murder in 1889 – and taking it on, mainly because I knew you’d be in my corner. And you were.

I can’t tell you how it feels to go into a library these days and find my own books on the shelves. Sometimes not on the shelves, because they’re out, being borrowed!

Anyway, all of that is just a long way of saying thank you for being there my whole life, with hopefully more years to come. I love you.

– Caroline Overington

 

Stuart Kells

Libraries are oddly fractal. They feature an inherent complexity and strangely recurring patterns. Inside books, even the smallest details matter – like the typographical changes among copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio, or the ‘interrogatory hooks’ in the margins of Pushkin’s books.

Fractal patterns also exist between libraries. They connect Arts End at the Bodleian to Bag End in the Shire. And they connect ancient libraries with our  modern ones. Partly because of their fractal nature, libraries have a mysterious potency that is hard to capture scientifically, or in the bureaucratic calculus of inputs and outputs. And yet Australia’s public libraries continue to be nurtured with passion. We seem to have an innate sense of the value of libraries and the need to protect them – notwithstanding the impossibility of counting all their ‘outputs’.

A passionate affection based as much on intuition as on data? Sounds a lot like love.

– Stuart Kells

 

Toni Jordan

Dear Carina Library,

We didn’t have a lot of books at home, when I little. Neither of my parents were readers and they both worked: my mother, long hours at the TAB; and my father, night classes on top of his job, and then training our greyhounds in what little time was left. They were busy people with other priorities but from when my sister and I were very small, every second Tuesday night my mother drove us to Carina Library. And there I would choose my books for the fortnight.

I loved Tuesday nights. Carina Library had lots of books – possibly hundreds, I thought – and in the children’s section, the seats were red toadstools, which I thought the most amazing thing in the world. I learned to take my books up to the counter, all open to the card page, for the librarian to stamp with the date. Mum was in no hurry – she was sitting in the car out the front, listening to the races on the radio. Go you good thing. I could take my time.

I asked Mum what she remembered about those Tuesday nights. Not much, she said, except that as soon as I got home, ‘you devoured those books.’ It’s been years since I’ve visited, but I’ve never forgotten those Tuesday nights, that wonderful, magical space filled with stories.

With much love and thanks
Toni Jordan

 

Eliza Henry Jones

Library books are sacred things. My mother would take me to the local library most weekends. I remember the library as being very much like the churches I was taken to as a child – a cavernous place of peace and spirituality, although in reality it was a low building with a wide, asphalt car park. I remember the sky outside as being cold and grey and a little bit windy, even through summer and late spring.

There are videos of me as a toddler carefully turning the pages of thin paged art books – dazzled by the images. Sometimes, as I grew older, I’d find books at the library that had marks of food and mud on the pages. The shadows of other people’s lives. Other times I’d find passages underlined or things scrawled in the margins. If they were pencil markings, I’d rub them out. If they were ink markings, I’d turn the pages quickly, sometimes without even trying to read the marked words.

Growing up in a library is a gentle thing – a crossing of aisles; the reading of a blurb that has shifted, over months and sometimes years, from confusing and dull to deeply intriguing. It is slowly shifting from middle grade books to teenaged book to adult books. It is finding yourself still quickly turning the pages marked by pen, but now alongside your mother, flicking through the same books on the same shelves, as though it’s always been this way.

– Eliza Henry Jones

 

Emma Grey

When I was fifteen, I wrote a love letter in the school library to my unrequited crush. Maybe if I sat beside the shelves, cocooned in the ideas of ‘real writers’, my own ideas might fall more eloquently onto the page.

They didn’t. Not first go.

Thirty years later, I found myself in the reading room of the New York Public Library. I wondered what had drawn so many of us there, instead of into the
spring sunshine of Central Park.

Then I breathed in the scent. All those words.

A new document lay open on my laptop. Onto that page fell the opening lines of a new book about grief. A book about my husband, who I’d lost the year before. A love letter to him, really.

So, here I am, three decades later, still writing love letters in libraries. Still hoping to imbibe literary magic from all the writers who came before me. Still wishing words would tumble more effortlessly onto a page. Still aware that they won’t. Not first go.

And when I take my seven-year-old to our local library in Queanbeyan and he lugs his pile of non-fiction past one of my own books on the shelves, and
says, ‘Look! There’s your book, Mummy!’, part of me hopes the librarians won’t overhear.

I’m there for everyone else’s books. Inhaling the scent of other people’s words.

Hoping ideas might fall onto a fresh page.

– Emma Grey

 

Jackie French

Our National Library: a Love Song

A small, suburban library was the heart of last years of my father’s life: a morning visit to watch the kids at story time, and for his daily book, chosen by the librarians who knew him well.

Each afternoon Dad phoned me to read the best bits. At 82 Dad still read me stories. And I write stories, with my silent daily partner, the National Library.

Australia’s most valuable resource is imagination. Every enterprise is based on imagination, from medical breakthroughs to the engineering and courage to mine the asteroids. Each invention stands on the shoulders of others.

The National Library not only has every book written in this country, every newspaper. It is like a hill that hides uncountable treasures below its surface: the Digital Classroom, that enhances our nation’s curriculums; the maps and archives I worked with this morning, despite being remote from the library itself.

The National Library’s Australian Government Web Archive is the only place where political speeches, the words and ideas that reflect and shape our nation, are held forever.

I do not know all that the National Library does, but I do know that every dollar they receive is one of the best possible investments for Australia. I love the National Library not just for its books, its treasures, its accessibility and expertise, but because, if properly resourced and understood, the National Library helps create our future.

– Jackie French

 

James Moloney

Like many a love affair, I circled around you for years before we truly met – aware of you among my acquaintances, even sharing your company on brief occasions, only to discover the intensity of my attraction in later life. Then, when I began writing, the way you gave me just what I needed brought me to your doors again and again until I was hooked. I say doors deliberately, for you have a plethora of them – thirty-three at last count. That is the secret of your allure.

Because Brisbane is governed by one city council, you, my love, are a library service like no other. Your single catalogue and central purchasing team mean that every book worth reading will be on your shelves somewhere and with a few strokes on my keyboard I can have a title delivered to my local branch within days.

Was there ever such largesse offered by a lover? I’ll confess that I occasionally binge on our romance. Some nights I’ve barely been able to reach my bed for the clutter of yet-to-be-read tomes stacked nearby. Even as I compose this hymn of devotion, the excitement stirs and only an effort of will stops me calling up your website (Tinder for the Book Lover, I call it) to place a hold on that book I’d hoped my children would give me for Christmas.

– James Moloney

 

Rachael Johns

To me, libraries are enchanted places.

The first library I remember was my school library. There was a magic bed (this is in the days before all libraries seemed to have fantastic kids’ furniture and I guess the librarian had to be creative). It was covered in a bright-coloured quilt and cushions and it was my favourite place in the world to read. You had to be quiet in the library and I think we were – because we didn’t need noise when we had books. Oh so many books – and because of the books, adventures – I was in heaven! I think this is where my love affair with libraries began, but it didn’t diminish any as I got older.

I thought I’d hit the jackpot when l got a job in our small town library – what? Someone was going to pay me to hang out in a library for a few hours every week? Sadly, this library didn’t have a magic bed, but it was here that I saw the magic of libraries as an adult. Libraries are public places where anyone can go; libraries offer the joy of reading to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it and libraries are where you find librarians – wonderful creatures whom authors should worship.

Now as an author, I’m lucky enough to visit many libraries across our beautiful county and all of them – big and small – are magical in some way.

Love,
Rachael Johns

 

Tony Wilson

Dear Library

I remember when we first fell in love. You were in your creme brick stage, and we’d sneak a fortnightly rendezvous in Whitehorse Road Balwyn. My mother chaperoned us, and for a while she bribed my siblings and me with junior burgers at the adjacent McDonalds. But I never fell in love with those salty transfats. I fell in love with you, and your Dahl and your Marsden and those Babysitter Club books that were borrowed by my sister but which I devoured too.

We were exclusive for many years, but eventually I started seeing other libraries. First my school library, then university libraries, and they were lovely too, but it was never quite the same. Somehow, it often felt like hard work with them. None of them had your pretty little sunken reading circle, with its broad carpeted steps that provided so many special hidden moments for us. Do you still have that carpeted dimple? I’ve been told you’ve had a renovation now. That you’re creme brick no more.

Never mind. We all change. We never intended to be exclusive. But you never forget your first love.

Always yours,
Tony Wilson

 

John M. Green

I love libraries for two reasons:

  1. Because it was a library that steered me away from a sordid life of crime, drugs and vice. Okay, it was really my family upbringing. But growing up in Sydney’s seedy yet exhilarating Kings Cross, our local library was there lending my family the books we were desperate to read but couldn’t afford to buy. The stories that kept me off the streets.While I’ve never lived a life of crime or terror myself, the characters I create in my thrillers certainly do and they, happily, also turn up in libraries.
  2. Because libraries are more than places to borrow books from. They’re crucial custodians and curators of our country’s culture. I got this revelation when I was appointed to the Council of the National Library of Australia.The stories, memoirs, papers, maps, oral histories that libraries collect, preserve and make available to us for free remind us who we are, what we’ve done right and wrong, where we’ve come from and, with a little imagination, suggest where we might be going.

That’s why I love libraries.

– John M. Green

 

Mark Brandi

‘Love’s not Time’s fool’

It may seem sentimental, or even a little cliche, but I’m often reminded of those famous words from Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 116’.

So too my feelings have deepened over the years, not diminished.

At first, you were my safe harbour in a storm of schoolyard angst – a quiet refuge, but also a place of ideas, freedom and beauty, where I discovered a world much bigger, much richer than my own.

But time passes quickly, and our relationship shifted. I didn’t see you as often, as other passions pulled me astray. But I think you knew I’d always return, that the heart couldn’t lie.

So now, when I step through your doors and sit within your silent domain, I still feel that same deep calm and sense of belonging – you’ve always made me feel at home.

But your greatest gifts to me were my first books. And although I could never repay that generosity, my small gift to you now (as a writer) is my first novel.

To see it there, among all your incredible works – it is as great a privilege as I can imagine.

Always,
Mark Brandi

 

Claire G Coleman

To The Library

I love to be surrounded by books, the feel of them, the look, the smell of paper and ink, the worlds concealed between the covers. If I had a choice I would live in a library, place my bed between the shelves, in the shelves’ embrace, sleep and dream in the presence of all the books contained. Every one of them is a portal to a new world, every one of them is knowledge encapsulated. Library, you have all the books stacked together, lined up on shelves, in them is everything I would ever need to know, all I have to do is look.

I know I have to share you, my library, that’s ok, everybody else needs you as much as I do. You are big enough, powerful enough for all of us. Library, my love, other people might not understand what you do for us but I do. We will miss you if you ever leave us.

– Claire G Coleman

 

M.J. Tjia

One of my earliest memories, sepia-tinted with age and the fierce heat of that Brisbane day, is hopping from the searing seats of our Ford Falcon and taking my father’s hand to go into the Garden City Library. How cool those dim rooms were, how hushed, with row upon row of books we could take home! Libraries are where people can hone their reading tastes – a place where this teenager could sample war-time thrillers, romances, horror. My mum, now retired, gleefully borrows her weekly book-club books, and is boastful that she no longer returns them late, because the library sends her a reminder text.

The public library is the perfect place for those of us with a book dependency.

– M.J. Tjia

 

Lynette Noni

When I was a little girl, we didn’t have much money. My dad was a farmer, our family’s livelihood dependent on the hope of rain in a land of endless drought. My mum always said wealth comes in many forms, knowledge and imagination not the least of these. She encouraged me to find joy in reading – encouragement I didn’t need, since I was obsessed with the worlds I was transported to and the fictional friends I met along the way.

Our poverty meant we didn’t have money to buy books, so my local library was a haven for me in my younger years. It wasn’t just an escape, it was a second home. The ceiling fans offered a respite from the merciless heat, the beanbags a comfortable place to curl up, and the books – oh, the books. There were hundreds of them. Thousands. To my little-girl mind, I’d never known so many wonders, never imagined so many adventures at the turn of a page. Weekends found me wandering the shelves, never wanting to leave; school holidays found me huddled in the corners, reading until I had to be dragged away – with my arms full of novels to take home with me.

I am an author today because of my childhood library. My haven, my home. I know I am not alone in this. Because libraries aren’t just buildings full of books – they’re kingdoms of words rife with creativity, vision, and hope. And in this day and age, they’re exactly what this world needs.

– Lynette Noni

 

Sulari Gentill

Dear Library

It’s been many years since we first fell in love. I was young. You were older, your life was ordered, everything in its place. Shy and lonely, I had no idea what I wanted, and you gave me refuge. How giddy were those first days of discovery – I couldn’t get enough of you.

As time went on you introduced me to my greatest friends, those who would inspire and comfort me, who would thrill and challenge me. And even those who would make me furious. You surrounded me with adventurers and heroes, cowboys, dancers, activists and survivors.

I dallied with each of them for a while, became quite passionate about some, but I always returned to you.

Some of your introductions proved dangerous, but you were always there to hold my hand – to provide me a safe place in which to experiment with outrageous ideas, to imagine not being shy, not being awkward, not being me. And in the process you allowed me to become me.

Oh library, dear library, perhaps we should just declare ourselves, keep ourselves only unto each other – but I know you could never be just mine.

It is your nature to be there for whoever needs you – rich or poor, learned or learning. Others love you as much as I, and that is as it should be. I can share. I can be modern.

Still, we could run away together – you wouldn’t need to go anywhere – I’ll come to you.

Love always
Sulari Gentill

 

Natalie Jane Prior

My Library

There is a library in my head
Of all the books I’ve ever read.
Books to cherish and to bless,
Books forgotten, more or less;
Books to learn from, books to write,
Books to keep me up at night.
Silly books that make me laugh,
Books for reading in the bath.
Books for browsing on the train,
Or when I’m sheltering from the rain –
Books that make me feel alive,
And help my sad heart to revive.
So when you need me, best to look
First, in the library, with my books.

– Natalie Jane Prior

 

Library Lovers Day infographic

Here’s an infographic we whipped up last year to show a few of the reasons why people love libraries

Infographic about library services

Library Lovers’ Day is an initiative, coordinated by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), aims to raise the profile of the services which libraries offer. Australia’s public libraries provide quality information services that support lifelong learning, significantly impacting the cultural and information industry.