Cathedrals of the mind, right here
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…
Get some ‘‘bookspiration’’ at your library this summer.