Kate Oland suggests not overdoing it this holiday season
Between the Lines
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.