In Praise of Libraries

Posted by Daniel on May 19, 2011 - 5 comments

When I was a kid, the bookmobile was my first library. A van (in my memory it is pink, but is that likely?) rigged out with shelves and hundreds of books, it used to make a regular stop on a corner on West Tenth not so far from my Vancouver home and that is where I went with my well-used library card to borrow another Hardy Boys mystery or baseball story. Since that time, the 1950s, I have spent a large part of my life in libraries, reading other peoples' books and researching and writing my own. So when I spied a copy of The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia by Dave Obee at, where else, my local library, I pounced.

The book is an illustrated history of libraries in the province and there, on page 138, I found a photograph of my old bookmobile and the information that it began operating in 1956. It was probably the only bookmobile in North America with a translucent roof. (Now that I didn't remember.) If I wanted to widen my reading horizons I got my mother to take me in the old Morris Minor convertible to the Kitsilano Branch on West Fourth. Again, there it is, on page 109, squat and ugly and grey, a far cry from today's roomy book palaces. I can remember working on many a school project at its scarred tables. The Library Book tells me that when it opened in 1927 it was the first branch library in the province.

Of course The Library Book is not just about Vancouver. It tells the story of libraries around the province right up to the present challenges of ebooks and Wikipedia. Well worth a look.