Author shares her love of public libraries.
Commissioned by Public Libraries of New Zealand, Briar Grace Smith writes about her local library.
In 2018, Public Libraries of New Zealand commissioned three authors to write about their enduring relationship with their "local".
Arts commentator and literary editor, Mark Amery, selected writers who had a special relationship with libraries. He asked them to reflect on the changing role of public libraries and to consider the tangible new ways libraries are providing vital community hubs for the sharing of ideas, information and key tools in an increasingly digital age.
"I invited Fiona Farrell, Briar Grace-Smith and Max Harris," Mark says, "writers for whom libraries have had a fundamental and an inspirational influence on their lives. A relationship, which continues to this day with an individual library - either through their own life or the lives of their whanau. The result is a series of literary portraits of a public library and the community it serves."
All three authors chose to write about a specific library and their experiences with them over time – invoking a sense of ownership and pride from these relationships and their place in society. The first of these essays by Briar Grace-Smith, entitled "To My Local" has just been published in The Spinoff. Here is an excerpt.
"I’ve done my time in libraries around the country, popping in and out of them on writers tours for readings, or parking up at a desk to write, but the one I’ve had a meaningful relationship with is Paraparaumu.
By the time we got together, the old and very plain library had been replaced with a spacecraft that nestled alongside wetlands occupied by ducks, Pukeko and native bush. A stream - somehow managing to ditch its swag of McDonald's wrappings collected on its jaunt past Coastlands shopping mall - runs prettily alongside. The glass side of the building captures the reflections of the clouds and sky; an echo perhaps of the dreaming going on within.
As the automatic doors of the craft softly slide open and I step inside I’m struck by what lies in front of me. On its journey through time the library has changed. It’s no longer just a place for books and their readers, but is becoming a reflection of the community that it sits in.
In a far corner, a JP takes a trickle of people through the protocols of getting a new passport. I see older people sitting in pairs or clusters sharing knowledge with those who have learning disabilities, or others who are new to the country. As always, a couple of students sleep head down in text books snoring up their words, while others read the free newspapers on offer. I’ve been here in the evenings to eat cheese, drink wine and listen to readings. I’ve sat on panels and answered questions and been to art exhibitions.
But my relationship with the library was firstly all about the books.
As a sensitive child who slunk into teenage-hood with an attitude and, later, a young mum juggling kids and theatre work, books allowed me to slip through portals from my domestic world into other realms and experiences. The most affecting stories helped me make sense of who I was and probably influenced what I chose to write about."
READ the whole essay HERE.
Republished with permission of The Spinoff.
Briar is the Co-Director and actor in the highly anticipated film "Cousins" Watch the trailer HERE.
Photo: Ebony Lamb