This week’s plunder is one that is very close to my heart. This week I’m stealing from the Toronto Public Library. Well, not actually, but you know what I mean...
After much thought (and many hours sitting at my usual desk in the Northern District Branch), I came to realize that much of my inspiration has come from the library. As a child, the Grantham Library branch in St. Catharines was my second home. As I grew, I spent less and less time in the library and more time out with friends, writing in fancy coffee shops or buying the books I wanted to read instead of borrowing. I forgot about the secret treasures that the library held.
After reading Kleon’s book (yes, it always comes back to this book), I was reminded that the library is a wonderful place to work, find inspiration or watch the world go by. As a writer, I am required to do a lot of research for the projects I work on and now that I have been taking my writing more seriously, my knowledge requirements have grown exponentially. For every one thing I write, I find I need to read 15 or more books. There is no way I could afford to continue to buy all the books I needed. Here is where the library offers an abundance of resources. For my project, My Mother’s Daughters, I have been required to do a lot of research into Borderline Personality Disorder and have found all the resources I could hope for through the Toronto Public Library (and had them shipped to my local branch for pick-up). I know you must be thinking: Yes, the library is a great place to find books... no newsflash there... thanks! But this is not where the true magic of the library lies...
The beauty of the library lies in the library itself. It is a community area. There are people from all ages and walks of life. You have the students coming to study; the elderly coming to read magazines and newspapers; parents with their children learning to read; people surfing the internet or just looking to get in from the cold and many more. All you need to do is grab a seat and watch and you will see some amazing characters. I often find myself looking around and wondering: who are these people who surround me... Where do they come from and what has brought them here? What have they seen and what have they done? Sometimes, they become characters in a story are give me an idea for something to write on.
It is also simply another quiet space that I can go and work with very few distractions. I can come in, find a little corner or nook somewhere and sit in peace, working to my heart’s content. I can bring tea or a snack and as long as I’m not disturbing others, I can go about my business at my leisure. The best part of all, it is free. No one will come along and kick me out because I haven’t purchased a beverage recently or because they need the table. I am free to stay and work as long or as little as I like without paying a dime. I can use the books and resources. I can plug my computer in and type. It is slowly becoming my home away from home; much as it was when I was a kid.
As a child, I would walk over to the library, grab a footstool and park myself somewhere in the stacks for hours on end. I knew where every book was. I knew the Dewy Decimal System long before I knew what the Dewy Decimal System was. Whatever sparked my interest, it was all there. If I felt like learning about dinosaurs, I would flip through all the books on dinosaurs, or ghosts or WWII or comics or or or... It was all there! All at my fingertips. Anything I wanted to know. It was rare that I had any less than 10 books checked out at home. This is a little amusing for me because I was never a strong reader. I loved books but it always took me a long time to get through even one; so most went unread. It didn’t matter. I still loved holding them, smelling them, having them close. There was magic in all those books and as long as they were with me, I had a little of that magic too.
Now, the library has become equivalent to “the office” in my vocabulary. Most of the time, I feel very unproductive at my little desk in my apartment and need a more focused space. The library offers this. The Northern District branch has ample work areas and study rooms, so I am usually able to find some place to call my own and set up shop. I just plug in my headphones and I’m off. It’s fantastic. It also gets me out of the house, which is invaluable in itself. Sometimes, you just need to be out in the world to remind yourself that you are a part of it. And an important part of it.
Sometimes I forget that we are all connected. I like to think of myself as an island that is occasionally forced to interact with the outside world. It is here at the library that I reconnect. No one is in this world alone. When I sit here at my desk by the window, I can hear people studying on the other side of the wall, I see people reading at other desks, I see people going to the washrooms. I am not alone. We are all in this world together. As a writer, this is an important idea to keep in mind. I am an artist contributing to the cultural mosaic of my world. I need to be a voice for those that do not have a voice. The world doesn’t care what I have to say, unless it is something that they want to say but can’t find the words. I cannot be an island. This is not my world, it is our world and it is important to engage with it. The voice that I speak with is the same voice that those around me speak with as well.
This is what I take from the library each day that I’m here. A sense of community and belonging. The reminder that we are all one.
There is so much magic within these walls. After a long absence, I’m glad I have rediscovered the treasures that lie within my local library. It is like coming home after being away for a very long time. I still love to go find a desk somewhere and curl up among the stacks; surrounded by books. I still love to hold them, smell them, and possess a little of their magic for a brief moment.
If you haven’t been to your local library in a while, drop in for a visit. You can find your closest Toronto branch at:
Also, libraries need our support. Think about donating to your local library either through old books or monetarily. Donations to the Toronto Public Library can be made online at: