and then more library! Even our state newspaper was extolling the virtues of our local libraries this morning. It would not have been because I was extolling the virtue of our local library to a complete stranger yesterday.
I was stopped in the street on my way back from a depressing bill paying session at the bank and a pleasant young man with a student backpack asked me for the location of the nearest internet cafe. There is no internet cafe in the immediate vicinity. I explained this. He was, I think, a little surprised. Then I explained that, if he cared to do so, he could go to our local library. Once there he would find free internet access and, if he was really desperate, a cup of tea or coffee.
I pedalled over with him striding it out next to me and he kept asking questions about this remarkable service. It is remarkable. We locals tend to take it for granted. The library is just there. It provides the usual services, books to borrow, audio-books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, videos (rapidly going out of date), the internet, Wi-Fi connection, meeting spaces, meetings, talks by authors, workshops (on everything from gardening to knitting, to bookbinding), book groups, story-telling, craft sessions for kids, a clothes exchange for teenagers, the occasional parcel delivery and message centre, the results of the World Cup, cricket during an important match and staff who are generally pleasant, friendly and helpful - even if they are inclined to say, "Wait a minute, here's Cat. She might know."
There is a section for adults, a section for young adults and a section for children and a section for smaller children. The non-fiction is organised by Dewey Decimal Classification, the fiction alphabetically - except for the picture books. We gave up with that on day one. Picture books do not take kindly to being organised. (I am at home enough in the library to put books away in the right place if I see them in the wrong place and to put my paws around the staff room door to talk to someone. )
Our libraries need more money spent on them. The staff would like to be able to have more say in the books we get. Most books are bought centrally and distributed throughout the state. It may be cheaper that way but what suits one area may not suit others.
But, internet access suits everyone. The eight terminals are constantly busy. I told the young man he would probably have to wait. That was fine he told me. After all, he now had a whole library to look at. "We don't have anything like this back home."
No, and it will be a long time coming. I left him sending a message back to Uganda.