Cathe­drals of the mind, right here

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS - THE SE­CRET LI­BRAR­IAN

As Caitlin Mo­ran lyri­cally puts it; ‘‘A li­brary in the mid­dle of a com­mu­nity is a cross be­tween an emer­gency exit, a life-raft and a fes­ti­val. They are cathe­drals of the mind; hos­pi­tals of the soul; theme parks of the imag­i­na­tion. On a cold rainy is­land, they are the only shel­tered pub­lic spa­ces where you are not a con­sumer, but a cit­i­zen in­stead’’

And in this new era of global in­sta­bil­ity, have we ever been more in need of a safe place to just be cit­i­zens? It’s a sanc­tu­ary of eq­uity – where your ad­dress, your visa sta­tus and your pay packet don’t mat­ter. A reli­able haven of truth in an era of fake news.

Air BnB my bot­tom, the li­brary is the birth­place of the share econ­omy – a place where you leave your con­sumerism at the door and hard wire your­self into the com­mu­nity. In a district where in­ter­est in sus­tain­abil­ity, re­silience, tra­di­tional crafts and hip­ster ar­ti­sanal skills has never been higher, where else would you go to fill your hand-crafted boots?

For decades, li­braries have been ac­cused of los­ing rel­e­vance, fail­ing to keep pace and slowly be­come mau­soleums for the printed word. But here in the Queen­stown Lakes Li­braries, we laugh in the face of such small­mind­ed­ness and lack of vi­sion. Our li­braries are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a re­nais­sance, a re­vival of ap­petites and an in­flux of hun­gry minds. There’s a richer cul­tural land­scape to this district than our im­pres­sive sport­ing rep­u­ta­tion be­lies. Our Na­tional Po­etry Week events in Au­gust brought mem­bers of the South Auck­land Col­lec­tive to town, set­ting a fire un­der our awe­some creative com­mu­nity and kick-start­ing a bunch of con­tem­po­rary spo­ken word per­form­ers into ac­tion.

Our part­ner­ships with CODC and other South Is­land li­braries con­tinue to help us punch pretty high above our weight when it comes to keep­ing pace with li­brary tech­nolo­gies, col­lec­tions and ser­vices. Our ridicu­lously ex­pe­ri­enced li­brar­i­ans are ut­terly com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing the cul­tural and lit­er­ary ter­rain of the district, smash­ing down stereo­types and keep­ing our li­braries lively. I dare you to try to ‘sshhh’ them… Oh but what about the in­ter­net you say? Yeah we got that cov­ered too – 30 min­utes free wifi in Queen­stown, Wanaka and Ar­row­town.

Our big­gest chal­lenge at the mo­ment is our pop­u­lar­ity. Which is a GREAT prob­lem to have. We’re find­ing our feet as a tourist at­trac­tion, with sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of vis­i­tors keen to gain an in­sight into our com­mu­nity, ac­cess our re­sources and en­joy the sweet wifi. We’ve got a plan in place to help man­age these groups this sum­mer with some clear house rules, so that we help make them feel wel­come in our towns without swamp­ing lo­cal friends.

Fail­ing all that, there’s books. Beau­ti­ful, bliss­ful books – pages that smell of child­hood and pa­per and po­ten­tial. Keep it old school, stretch out on the lawn and lose your­self in a story. There’s your slice of heaven right there…

123RF

Get some ‘‘book­spi­ra­tion’’ at your li­brary this sum­mer.

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