Kate Oland sug­gests not over­do­ing it this hol­i­day sea­son

Be­tween the Lines

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - KATE OLAND

I couldn’t do it this year. Call it my Christ­mas re­bel­lion. Al­though in past years I’ve cre­ated a sparkly, red-and-green, tin­sel-be­decked book dis­play at Bad­deck Li­brary, this De­cem­ber I just... couldn’t. Per­haps I’ve en­coun­tered too many fam­i­lies strug­gling to pro­vide the ideal Christ­mas for their chil­dren, at the cost of stress, anx­i­ety, and debt. Maybe it’s my own re­al­iza­tion that there re­ally isn’t any “thing” I want to own – that, in fact, hav­ing less stuff in my house would be a gift. That hav­ing time to en­joy the peo­ple I love means more to me than any­thing that comes in a pack­age. Some­how, the tin­sel and sparkle just seemed... hol­low.

So this year, I found my­self cre­at­ing a “Keep the Sea­son Sim­ple” dis­play, fea­tur­ing books about en­joy­ing what we have and valu­ing what’s truly im­por­tant. Books like “The Win­ter of Our Dis­con­nect,” which chron­i­cles one fam­ily’s ex­per­i­ment in giv­ing up In­ter­net con­nec­tion to re­con­nect with one an­other. Books like “Live More, Want Less” and “Just Enough,” which chart a path to re­duc­ing our bur­den of “stuff” and spend­ing more time in joy­ful liv­ing. Books like “Re­claim­ing Con­ver­sa­tion” which urges us to at­tend to the real-life, faceto-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion we’re ne­glect­ing when we’re “lik­ing and shar­ing” and brows­ing on­line. Books about mak­ing and giv­ing sim­ple gifts.

I sup­pose some might ac­cuse me of mak­ing a po­lit­i­cal state­ment in what is of­ten con­sid­ered to be a neu­tral pub­lic space. But from my point of view, this sim­ple book dis­play is em­blem­atic of the pub­lic li­brary and its core val­ues. Pub­lic li­braries al­low us to con­nect – with ideas, with in­for­ma­tion, and with each other – in mean­ing­ful ways. They’re built on the idea of com­mu­nity and shar­ing. They en­cour­age less con­sump­tion and ac­cu­mu­la­tion of “stuff.” And the li­brary’s gifts are free.

When you think about it, the pub­lic li­brary is one of the few places that ab­so­lutely ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of in­come, back­ground, or be­lief, can en­ter freely and feel re­spected and val­ued. Any­one can come and spend time in this wel­com­ing space – whether it’s to read, knit, or play... to learn, cre­ate, or dream. With­out a dime in your pocket, you can bor­row as many books as you can carry, take home the lat­est movie, ac­cess a va­ri­ety of kits and de­vices – even bor­row a top-line pair of skis or snow­shoes. You can bring your kids to play and stay as long as you like. You can at­tend a workshop, movie, or learn­ing cir­cle. And if you need a place to re­treat from the world, you can sit and stare out the win­dow.

There’s a mom who comes to the li­brary sev­eral times a week with her child. I’ve seen them, snug­gled up with the gi­ant stuffed go­rilla in our chil­dren’s sec­tion, read­ing and talk­ing, shar­ing the events of the day. Some­times they play with the Le­gos, or en­joy a snack. Some­times mom reads while her child plays on the com­puter. They’ve made “li­brary time” a part of their lives for years, and I’ve of­ten won­dered how this child will re­mem­ber these hours. I sus­pect that, long after he’s for­got­ten any toy wrapped in shiny pa­per, he’ll re­mem­ber this other gift his mom has given him – the gift of sto­ries, time, care, and con­nec­tion. Joy­ous sea­son, ev­ery­one! To find out more about what your lo­cal li­brary has to of­fer, visit www.cbrl.ca and click on your near­est branch; “like” Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Li­brary on Face­book, or drop by the li­brary.

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