Escape the cold with a selection of good books
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.