Es­cape the cold with a se­lec­tion of good books

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

But when you’re back in your home­town it’s hard to beat the lo­cal li­brary for a com­pre­hen­sive book ‘fix’.

Com­fort­able, wel­com­ing, staffed with end­lessly help­ful, friendly peo­ple and pro­vid­ing ac­cess to much more than books, lo­cal li­braries are noth­ing less than com­mu­nity trea­sure troves.

My first li­brary ex­pe­ri­ence was not the stan­dard va­ri­ety. Grow­ing up in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds meant the sup­ply of read­ing ma­te­rial was limited.

Luck­ily for my broth­ers and me, our par­ents were book lovers, read­ing to us of­ten and sur­round­ing us with books. I know my mother was greatly re­lieved when the Mo­bile Li­brary came trundling in from the more civilised reaches of the prov­ince twice a year and she could bor­row a large card­board box of books for the fam­ily.

The Mo­bile Li­brary was housed in a mas­sive old 6 cylin­der Bed­ford bus fit­ted out with a fold-down is­sue desk and tilted shelves de­signed to keep the books se­cure.

The li­brar­i­ans who drove these un­gainly beasts along the of­ten steep, nar­row and windy Sounds’ roads were re­doubtable women with good me­chan­i­cal skills and nerves of steel.

They dressed in tweed, thick knit­ted jer­seys and sen­si­ble shoes. Their ther­moses and grease­proof pa­per wrapped sand­wiches were stowed next to the driver’s seat along­side a sturdy oil­skin parka and boxes of file cards.

They parked their ve­hi­cles on hill­sides in gales of wind, clouds of fog and driz­zle or, much less fre­quently, calm sunny weather, and waited for the farm­ers’ wives to ar­rive and make their se­lec­tions.

I would set­tle down on the bus’s dusty linoleum floor to search the low shelves that held the chil­dren’s books. I looked for books I hadn’t read be­fore, books I could read to my broth­ers and for pic­ture books of ex­otic places.

Now I look back on it, those li­brar­i­ans nav­i­gat­ing their heavy li­brary buses were mis­sion­ar­ies, de­liv­er­ing cul­ture and en­ter­tain­ment to the far reaches of ru­ral New Zealand.

And New Zealand li­braries con­tinue the tra­di­tion of pro­vid­ing mo­bile ser­vices, some­times to ur­ban ar­eas with­out ac­cess to li­braries and, for ex­am­ple, in North­land, the Whangarei Pub­lic Li­brary reg­u­larly takes its ser­vices to ru­ral ar­eas and to marae.

Here in Nel­son, our li­brary has a home de­liv­ery ser­vice run by vol­un­teers that keeps up the tra­di­tion of the mo­bile li­braries for those house­bound or oth­er­wise un­able to get out and about.

Now about a quar­ter of the way through my book pile, I’m hop­ing the win­ter weather will clag in again soon.

My ad­vice to those trapped in­side by the cold is to get into your li­brary and choose a few good books.

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