Darlene Foster's Blog

The Wonder of Libraries

Posted on: June 19, 2021

“When I got [my] library card, that was when my life began.”
― Rita Mae Brown

Do you recall the first time you stepped into a library? I do. I felt like I had entered Nirvana. All those books, and I could borrow them for free! I would pick out a stack of books to take home to the farm, read them and the next time we came to town, return them and bring home another stack. I must have borrowed most of the books in the children´s section of the old Medicine Hat Library.

The Old Medicine Hat Library

A new modern Medicine Hat Public Library was built in 1964 which was very exciting. This is the library I took my children to. My grandchildren and great grandchildren now visit this wonderful place. I still get that happy-all-over feeling whenever I enter. I had the pleasure of doing a presentation and book reading there. I felt I had gone full circle.

The current Medicine Hat Library
Dream come true, doing a presentation at my home library.

I was lucky that my love of libraries started early in life. I have since frequented many over the years. Everywhere I have lived, the library is one of the first places I visit. Here are a few that are dear to my heart.

The Vancouver Public library

The Vancouver Public Library, located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, is my all time favourite. This building, designed after the coliseum in Rome, opened in 1995, not long after we moved to the Vancouver area. It is often found on best libraries to visit lists. Every time I walk into this library, I am filled with awe. I always felt it was a place of refuge in a busy metropolis. I was invited to present workshops for the summer book camp at VPL four years ago. A great opportunity I will never forget.

The main branch of the Vancouver Public Library

Calgary also has wonderful libraries and I have spent time in many of them. The newest Central Library opened in 2018 and it is state of the art. The new library was recognized as one of “The Worlds 100 Greatest Places of 2019” by TIME magazine. I was delighted to find copies of my Amanda Travels series on the shelves.

The newest downtown branch of The Calgary Public Library.
Family friendly and interactive
With a North American Bison created out of letters of the alphabet
The most exciting thing for an author is to see her books on display at a library

I try to visit libraries when I travel. They are the heart and soul of the city. When I visited Liverpool, I stopped in at the central library and was very impressed. The reading room was straight out of Harry Potter. In fact two children came running out of the room wearing Hogwarts robes!

A list of popular books on the path to the entrance of the Liverpool Public Library
I could live in this reading room.

The library has a fabulous collection of vintage books including a 1611 copy of the King James Bible.

And a handwritten draft of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!

The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.– Albert Einstein

I´d love to learn about your experience with libraries and about your favourite one.

103 Responses to "The Wonder of Libraries"

I’ve been to Liverpool, but not to the library. It’s a shame libraries are closing these days.

They had a tough time during the lockdowns but are opening up again. People are still reading!

As a retired children’s librarian I can’t tell you how much I love this post Darlene!🤗

The only thing better than visiting a library would be to work in one!! So pleased you enjoyed the post.

How wonderful to come full circle and find your words in a library. The quotes are great and I agree, when I got my library card I started really living.

For a little girl living on a farm, this was my window to the world. And what a wonderful world I discovered. We didn’t get a TV until I was 12 years old. By then I was hooked on books.

Hey, Darlene, we got our first TV when I was 12 also, and honed a great love of books from my first library visit with a caring teacher who organized a school trip there when I was in Grade 1 in Yorkton SA.

That would have been a fun school trip!

Straight out of Dr. Who.

What a great post! It was fun to get a glimpse of all those libraries. I haven’t been inside the Vancouver Library for nearly two years, but I hope to get back there again soon. It is an oasis inside, and I miss the readings and book festivals.

It truly is an oasis. I recall going downtown during the Olympics in Vancouver. It was a wonderful time, an already busy city was even busier and I loved being part of the excitement. But when I looked for a place to eat, all the places were full with lineups outside. I walked over to the library and there was next to no one there. I had a lovely cup of coffee and a samosa at Blends and felt safe and contented in my happy place!

Blends is still there, and one of my go-to places when I’m in the area 🙂

Some amazing looking libraries in these great photos, Darlene. I’ve been a library fan since childhood too. I love the whole atmosphere and ethos of them. I have particular affection for Portree library on the Scottish island of Skye – where I have given author talks and have also taught some writing classes.

I would love to visit that library one day! Sounds lie a perfect place for you to give your talks and classes. How far is it from where you live now?

Unfortunately it’s 300 miles away. But I do go back to the island occasionally (in non-covid times). The library and the island are definitely worth a visit.

My brother worked in the Vancouver Public Library for decades, but I’m afraid he didn’t like it as much as you do. He often spoke about hassles with people who (for instance) didn’t want to pay their miniscule fines for overdue books.
As for me, I love libraries and try to visit them wherever I go. When you asked about favorites, I immediately thought of the Centre Céramique (so called because there used to be a ceramics factory on the site) in Maastricht, the southernmost city in the Netherlands. This particular library came to mind because I was once in Maastricht during a ferocious heat wave, even worse than the one we are having here in Frankfurt right now, and the library was gloriously air conditioned. https://operasandcycling.com/centre-ceramique/

I imagine he would have had to deal with unpleasant folks, unfortunately. Thanks for the link to your post on Centre Céramique in Maastricht. It looks like every modern, airy and comfortable library. I hope you are not melting in Frankfurt!

Budimir Public Library in Windsor, Ontario was my first. It still brings back warm and wonderful memories. Thank you for stirring them up again!

The first library is always so special. Glad I brought happy memories your way!

I too love libraries. My fondest memories are researching at Notre Dame’s phenomenal library for two days and then doing the same at the US Library of Congress (you need a library card for that one). I can’t imagine your excitement to see your books there!

That would be very exciting to do research at both places. Seeing my books in the Calgary Library was amazing. I lived in Calgary for six years. The city is extremely supportive of the arts.

I remember doing my research in the libraries to look up archives on microfiche.
My three and a half granddaughter reads that my daughter checks out stacks and stacks of books from the library regularly.

So happy to see your book in the library, Darlene.

That is wonderful that your granddaughter is already checking out stacks of books from the library. I think I was about 4 when I was first taken to the library and checked out a stack of picture books.

She has a good appetite in books. After we read her bedtime books, she continues to read by herself until she falls asleep. 📚

That is so sweet!! A good start in life for her.

Reblogged this on By Hook Or By Book and commented:
I had to pass on this marvelous tribute to the wonder of libraries from Darlene!

Before I left London, I lived very close to the modern British Library. That has some amazing collections inside, and also a wonderful shop.
https://www.bl.uk/visit
But my favourite library will always be my junior school library, in a small room with low chairs, full of old hardback books arranged in sections of interest, from 7 years-old until we were almost 11, then left for senior school. That was where I learned to love books.
Best wishes, Pete.

School libraries are special places. I love visiting them now to read to the students. We didn’t have much of one in our rural village school but I recall the sickbed was in the library room. So when you were feeling ill, you got to lie down in a room surrounded by books. Not a bad deal. I think I was sick a lot. Thanks for the link to the British Library. It looks awesome.

Beautiful buildings, Darlene. I love the entry to Liverpool with all the book titles lining the way in ❤

Isn’t that cool. I looked to see how many I had read when I was there.

These are wonderful pictures of libraries, Darlene.

Thanks, Robbie!! Libraries are my happy places, that and book stores.

I can recall the smell of the old Carnegie library that I haunted in the Texas Panhandle, that gloriously woody, dusty, leathery smell of old books. I’m sure I went through most of its fairly modest collection. Discovered Jim Kjelgaard there, and read all of his books. Read the entire Trixie Belden series. Still remember a biography of F.W. Woolworth. The picture it painted of New York City was entirely new and novel to a Texas farm girl. Books are still my favorite way to see the world.

Books are and have always been a great way to see the world and to learn about people. The Carnegie library sounds wonderful. You described the smell so well. I visited the library at Melk Abbey in Austria. All those old books, some 1500 years old, handwritten by monks.Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Thank you for the wonderful pictures. The Liverpool Library blows me away. I want that walkway in front of my house! LOL

Loved your post today! Now those are some stacks in the Liverpool library. Love the winding case. Brought back many memories. I don’t remember getting my first library card, but I do remember spending a lot of time in the library and attending special Saturday morning programs. I always had a stack of books. But, I really looked forward to the Book Mobile coming to my neighborhood in the summer and checking out books middle grade books. Not all moms had cars back then. So the Book Mobile was a lifeline.

I always thought bookmobiles sounded like so much fun. We didn´t have them, even though we were very rural and a trip to the city didn´t happen often. I made sure I took out a lot of books to keep me reading for a while.

I remember the first time I stepped into the school library and knew I was going to check out a book. I think I was in fifth grade. Borrowed a book about frogs that had a green cover.

Such great memories. I love how you recall the cover of the book.

I enjoyed that, Darlene. But it made me feel a little ashamed. I grew up with libraries and used them a lot, for pleasure and study. I used them at university. I encouraged my children to use them. I love visiting old libraries. But, apart from working on library projects with my business, I haven’t been in one as a user for a couple of decades. I need to sort that out! Mind you, I’m not exactly short of reading material!

Thanks, Mike. Glad you enjoyed this post. I don´t frequent libraries as much as I used to either, but when I do, I feel so at home. I have quite an extensive library of my own at home now!

This post is such a delight! The libraries you’ve featured are incredible. What surprised me is that as soon as I read “Do you recall the first time you stepped into a library?” the image of the children’s room in the Attleboro, Massachusetts library flashed in my head. That was over sixty years ago. I had no idea I’d retained that image. A very special library for me is the one in Lexington, Massachusetts because it was designed by my great-great uncle Willard Brown.

It is amazing how that first library visit sticks with many of us. A library designed by your great-great-uncle, how marvellous! I would love to see a picture.

Thank you so much. What a lovely library. Your family must be so proud to have this legacy. A wonderful article as well.

Yes, we are. Uncle Willard also was responsible for the restoration of the Colonial-era Buckman Tavern in Lexington.

A lovely post, Darlene I also remember my first trip to the libary and the pile of books I was able to bring home sadly libaries here are educational…the closest we get to a libary are the second hand book shops and there are some pretty great ones with a good choice of all sorts of books but of course not free to read…:) x

That first trip to the library is always special. The libraries here in Spain have mostly Spanish books. Although there is one, stocked and looked after by volunteers, with English books. There are many used books stalls at markets, thrift shops and coffee shops. The books are only 50 cents and always a good selection so we are never without something to read.

Thats good, Darlene..most of them here are just out to make a big profit and you may as well buy a new one we had a great shop where we lived before we could take ours back to there which we didn’t mind as they were so cheap and it only cost 20b for a book…xx

I forgot to mention all the money from the sale of the used books goes to charities.

Thats really good just like one we used before there aren’t any charity shops here like that x

I worked in libraries for more than 30 years–at the University of Saskatchewan and the Greater Victoria Public Library. The library I remember for its atmosphere, though, was the old Main Library at UBC, where I was a student. Libraries can be magical, and I admit I enjoyed being a cataloguer. I really ought to write something set in an invented library.

Lucky you to have had worked in libraries, surrounded by books. Libraries are indeed magical. The old main library at UBC would be very special as well. A story based in a library would be perfect!

When I taught 2nd grade, one of my regular field trips was to the county library with the kids. For about half of the kids in the class, this was their first library card.

A field trip to a library is always special, especially for kids who have never had the opportunity. You did fun things with your students.

Great post, Darlene! I love all the photos too, especially the outdoor shot of the Liverpool library. I love the idea of putting the titles of popular books on stones outside the library, like they did!

Thanks, Nancy. So pleased you liked this post. Perhaps we should do this on the path leading up to our houses!!

I was excited about checking out a book for myself.

I know, I felt so grown up when I did that.

Quite the opposite for me, I’m afraid. As a child, I found libraries quite terrifying and even get goosebumps when walking into one now. Needless to say, I don’t visit many, preferring instead to visit museums.
I wrote a post about it a few years ago and was amazed by the comments it got.
Great photos, though, Darlene.

Thanks, Hugh. I´m so sorry you had a bad experience with libraries. To me, they have always been such a welcoming place, even back then. They are quite different now. Not so intimidating with rules to be quiet etc. like they used to be. Glad you like the photos.

No worries, Darlene. I think my fear of libraries goes back to my childhood days, especially as being dyslexic was not acknowledged as a condition back then. They still remain a strange place for me, just as book shops do. Thank goodness we have online outlets and Kindle now. I don’t seem to fear them at all.

Libraries make me giddy with joy too. I like the smells and the silence. Our city has many branch libraries, and when I approach the lobby I feel joy.

Once when I went to Oxford, England, I stepped into one of their libraries, and the first thing I saw was a book about Mennonites. So unexpected!

That is so cool! Oxford has some great libraries. I have always wanted to visit The Bodleian Library. I understand that giddy feeling of joy. A library is a place to escape the cares and woes of the world.

The first library I was in was the bookmobile that came to the elementary school in the little community where I lived in Nova Scotia. I was so small someone had to help me up its steps, and I was so shy and overwhelmed by all the books, the librarian chose one for me. I loved the bookmobile after that and looked forward to its arrival.
Darlene, your photos are always stunning. If I ever achieve my dream of having a room in my house as my personal library, I want to cover the floor in book titles. That’s a wonderful welcome into any library.
Thanks for this delightful post. Stay safe and well.

Thanks, Lynn. I can just see you being helped up the stairs of the bookmobile. So cute. A floor with book titles would be so cool!!

Libraries are very much my happy place too, Darlene. Cool post!

Thanks, Jennifer. Very much a happy place.

You had me from the world “Libraries”. I especially enjoyed the photo of you holding “Amanda in Alberta.” Hugs!

Library catches most book lovers attention. Thanks!

My goodness, how I enjoyed this post! Your photos and descriptions of the libraries, starting with you childhood one in Medicine Hat, was really delightful. How thrilling to speak at your hometown library, and to see your books on library shelves. I dearly wish I had library memories. Sadly, I was never taken to a library as a child (or read to.) It wasn’t until I had children of my own that the library was my favorite place. I love, love the Einstein quote!

Perhaps you were late in finding the joy in libraries, but you have certainly made up for it by instilling the love of reading in your family and students! I’m so pleased you enjoyed this post. Seeing my books in a library was such a thrill.

Thank you, Darlene. I also think I’ve made up for it. Thank goodness! Yes, seeing your own books would definitely be a thrill!

We had to move to Santo Domingo for a year just 6 days after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida. I don’t speak Spanish and was thrilled when I was told about the only English language lending library in the city. All 6.000 books are in the card catalog by author and title. It is staffed by volunteers and is old fashioned with hand stamped cards in the pocket inside of books. It was so nice to be able to read books that were in English. What I enjoyed most were history books about the Dominican Republic which had become my home for a year.

What a wonderful experience made all the better by having an English lending library available. Thanks for sharing this.

If you ever visit cork in ireland, stop by our library its a wonderful place where I spent many happy hours reading! And they are very welcoming! xoxo

I will stop in for sure!! Sounds wonderful.

Yes! Libraries are wonderful!

One of the worlds best institutions! Thanks for stopping in, MIchele.

Wonderful post Darlene – this is why I wanted to be a librarian too!

Thanks, Meg. Libraries are special places for many of us.

Libraries have always been one of my favorite buildings – plus they hold my favorite escape. I have been trying in recent years to visit the library in the city I’m visiting. It has been neat. Check our Halifax NS Central library. Hub our community

Thanks for stopping in. I´m sure the Halifax Central Library is wonderful and should I visit your city, I will check it out.

What a fabulous article, Darlene – I love libraries. My daughter has a little baby boy and has been learning so much taking him to baby book group at her local library – with songs and how to share books with babies.

The best time to introduce children to libraries and books is when they are babies. What a great start!

I too love libraries. Reading stories and making them up has always been my thing. I have been spilling tales from my mouth uncontrollably since I could speak . I have been known to fold myself into the children’s corner like a master of yoga and just read aloud. Once Parents and children sat around me in awe, which made the voices more pronounced and my face more animated as I read, elaborated and asked the audience for their input. At the end I was clapped just when the bespectacled gentleman of the Library shushed me. Oh yes I love all of them, including yours.

Libraries are often where we learn to express ourselves creatively. The thing is that libraries are no longer places where you have to be quiet, which is wonderful. You would not be shushed now but encouraged to go on entertaining the patrons. A great story!

Thank you, your post is super.

My childhood was the same! Weekly visits to the library were like exciting for me too. I also remember my mother taking my books away and making me go play outside. I hated that part. But it gave me a lifelong love of words. Thank you so much for following my blog.

Yes, we have a lot in common. My mother and my teachers had to force me to put my book down and go outside to play. Even as a teenager I would take a book along on a date in case he was boring. My mom was appalled. I found you via Jennie, our favourite teacher.

Reblogged this on Nel Wil Jil.

Thanks for reblogging!

Hello. Great Post. If you ever get chance to visit Manchester in England try John Rylands library and the central library, wonderful both of them, but then, so are all libraries. 😀

I will keep that in mind. Thanks for the visit to my blog.

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