Around age 10/11 I was diagnosed with ADHD. As long as I took my meds, I could focus in school and could continue my reading habits. But I was only on meds for a few years. I’m not really sure why the meds stopped, maybe my new GP didn’t agree with pumping a young child full of stimulants? I honestly have NO recollection of why my treatment stopped. But it did. So around age 14, I stopped reading regularly.
I would read the mandatory novels for school (maybe, mostly I used Spark Notes) and I would read one or two novels a YEAR for recreation. This continued into adulthood. The problem was, with untreated ADHD I had such a hard time following a book that I would just give up reading anything longer than a short story. It was SO frustrating as someone who had always loved reading.
The only way I could read a novel would be if I set aside the time to read it front to back in one sitting. Otherwise, if I read a chapter here and a chapter there, I would totally forget what was happening. This lead to re-reading the previous chapters over and over, which is not only time consuming but so infuriating. Reading became hyperfocus/all at once or zero focus/none at all.
Because of this, if I feel the urge to read I just re-read the same few books over and over time and again because I’m familiar enough with them that I can follow them if I read them over a longer period of time. (It’s like putting on your favorite movie in the background that you don’t actually have to pay attention to in order to enjoy)
Okay, enough of the tragic backstory. Let’s get to the plot…
Libraries are Magic.
A few days ago I needed to print some stuff and my flat mate’s printer stopped working. Rather than trekking into town to go to the office supply store (where I usually do my printing), I decided to wonder down the street to the library…
Before this week, I could count the number of times I’ve been in a public library in the past twenty years on one hand. I haven’t had a library card since I was 9 years old. This was back when you had to look through the card catalog to find a book, it was a LONG time ago.
Because of my reading difficulties, I’ve had no use for public libraries. They give me anxiety. I haven’t actually finished a book in over FIVE years. I’ve started a few, but I never finish them. This is not something I am proud of. I feel shame for not being able to read and enjoy novels like I used to when I was a kid. I was always ahead in reading comprehension compared to other kids my age but I feel like now, I still have the reading comprehension of a 12 year old.
Now, Christchurch has a lot of libraries. The Christchurch City Library network consists of 22 libraries for a city with a population of 375,000. I mean, maybe other cities have this many? But I wouldn’t really know since I’ve never paid attention to them. That just seems like A LOT of libraries in one city!? And the thing is, they are AMAZING libraries.
I had previously been in about three of them around the city and they are all very modern looking. I remember thinking they seemed pretty nice but I was usually just there to use the computer for 5 minutes, so I never actually explored.
Last week I read [this post] about libraries and I realized how long it had been since I had REALLY explored a library. Libraries I remembered didn’t have any of these modern wonders people were writing about. I was pretty inspired by that post and so I decided to overcome my anxiety this week and get back into the library. Instead of just running in and out of the library to print what I needed, I decided to get a library card.
When I walked in, I timidly asked a woman at the help desk for assistance. I told her I wanted to get a library card and she took me over to another desk. Because of my anxiety regarding libraries, I had done extensive research on what I needed to get a library card – so I was already prepared with my ID and proof of address.
She had me fill out the membership form and she opened a drawer and asked me what colour I wanted. You get to pick a colour of library card! (I obviously got pink, seeing as it is the best colour) She registered my card in the system and wrote my name on it and handed it to me.
I guess she registered that I looked like a lost puppy because she asked if I knew about all the things my brand new card entitled me to. I admitted I hadn’t had a library card in nearly twenty years and she looked as if that was her absolute favorite thing to hear.
She pulled up the CCL website and walked me through EVERY part. I mean EVERY part. She showed me how to search the entire city catalog online, how to places holds (if you want a book from a different branch they will transport it to your favorite branch and keep it on hold for you for only $3!! OR if you have disabilities which limit your access to the library it’s FREE!!), how to create reading lists, how to see what I have checked out and when they’re due back, if I have late fees, basically everything you need when you want books or media.
THEN she showed me the eLibrary!! With my library card, I have access to over 47,000 ebooks and audio books to download FOR FREE. Including everything from major literary works to cookbooks to scholarly articles to resources on how to learn new hobbies. Basically anything you want is available to you digitally now. Click of a button.
There are also all sorts of community events and classes you can go to that are all sponsored through the library.
At this point, I am blown away. I am actually crying at the idea of all of this knowledge and all of these resources being readily available to me FOR FREE.
This woman looks at me, sees I’m crying and just smiles the most genuine and loving smile any stranger has ever given me. (I suspect most adults don’t usually have this reaction to getting a library card. But I’m not most adults.) I imagine it must have been pretty satisfying to her to get a REAL reaction to how MAGICAL the library is. Look Claudine (I asked her name), I am 100% here for you taking me on this incredible journey from my faded memories of cranky old librarians and dusty books and jettisoning me into the 21st century. THANK. YOU.
Once she releases me to browse on my own, it is like I have landed in some uncharted territory that is full of spectacular things to experience.
Our library is complete with self service checkout and return stations, computer areas, flat screen tvs, cozy reading areas, huge media libraries, free wi-fi, some apparently have cafes, others have Xbox360 or PS4 to play, and of course…thousands upon thousands of books.
I eagerly approached the catalog computer and type in the title of a book our midwife recommended. Bam. Not only does it show me all copies available within the 22 libraries, it shows availability, holds, wait lists etc. I click on the title and navigate to the page that shows it’s available at that branch and where to find it. It was as if I just became my own librarian!
I’ve always been a fan of numbers so the dewy decimal system is a fave of mine. I have absolutely NO trouble finding the book on the shelf. I traced my fingers over the library sticker and thumb threw the pages and clutched it close to my chest. It was my first library book in twenty years and I was emotional.
I wandered around every section, mind racing with what I should read. I sort of ended up psyching myself out about the fact just because I had access to the library didn’t actually cure my ADHD and reading issues. So I decided to just go print what I had originally come in for and check out the pregnancy book.
During my two hour visit, I had to ask for help about five times. But after my experience with Claudine, I didn’t feel ashamed to have to ask questions that were probably common sense. The workers helped me every time and never made me feel judged, even when I asked where the kids chapter books were. Or how do I log in to the computer now that I have a card. Or how do I check stuff out.
When I scanned my card at the checkout computer, it felt like that beep was the indication of a whole new exciting part of my adult life. I cannot even describe how happy I was to check out a book.
I now have the CCL app on my phone, a list of books to check out and a plan to go back this weekend. I even applied to be a book shelver at one of the nearby branches AND I started reading a new novel today!!
I am really obsessed with the idea that these great big, amazingly accessible, places of adventure exist and it’s FREE. I feel like I’m a kid all over again.I cannot wait to see where this rekindled passion leads me.
LIBRARIES ARE MAGICAL! AND FREE! AND EVEN IF YOU HAVE DISABILITIES PEOPLE ARE (PROBABLY) GOING TO BE NICE TO YOU AND HELP YOU FIND WHATEVER YOU NEED!
So go to your local library, check it out. PLEASE! I bet it will blow your mind.
Just want to shoutout a little resource that you might have access to via your public library!
If your library has brainfuse, an online tutoring service, and use brainfuse’s Adult Learning Center or JobNow resources, you have access to a lot of cool stuff!
For example, want help on your resume? JobNow offers a Resume Lab where patrons can submit their resume and within 24 hours, can receive an analysis of their resume. Analysis can include formatting, proofreading, and/or offering strategies for improving placement/descriptions of experiences in a resume.
Their Adult Learning Center offers live, online writing support so you could discuss your resume or cover letter with one of their writing tutors.
Need to hone your interview skills? There’s live online interview coaching, where patrons can work on interview techniques or practice interviewing with a tutor!
Still trying to figure out what you want to do? If your library has access, use brainfuse’s JobNow to do a career self-assessment, or access the ePARACHUTE (inspired by the What Color is Your Parachute? career guide).
If your library doesn’t have brainfuse? Check out what other online resources they have! There’s a lot of great stuff out there for job seekers for free with your library card!
And check if your library has a partnership with a local workforce development agency! A lot of large cities have a career center at their main library, so you might be able to get some assistance face-to-face!
Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay.
In the modern state there are very few sites where this is possible. The only others that come readily to my mind require belief in an omnipotent creator as a condition for membership. It would seem the most obvious thing in the world to say that the reason why the market is not an efficient solution to libraries is because the market has no use for a library. But it seems we need, right now, to keep re-stating the obvious. There aren’t many institutions left that fit so precisely Keynes’s definition of things that no one else but the state is willing to take on. Nor can the experience of library life be recreated online. It’s not just a matter of free books. A library is a different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal.
LearningExpress Library is probably one of my very favorite library databases. It’s got a little something for everyone, whether it’s job information, honing skills, or getting help with test prep. Here’s a rundown!
Adult Learning Center - The Adult Learning Center can assist in improving basic skills, like math, reading, writing, and grammar. Resources include tutorials, ebooks, and practice sets. It also includes a section for preparing for the US Citizenship Exam, which has articles about helpful hints on different sections and a practice test!
Career Center - A way to prepare for career exams, explore different career paths, and improve workplace skills! There’s a section to Learn More About a Career, which could be a good resource for writers, as well as sections to prepare for entrance exams for nursing school and health programs. You can also prepare for occupation exams for things like Air Traffic Controller, firefighting, plumbing, social work, ASVAB, and many more. There’s also info about workplace skills, job searching, and interviewing.
School Center has resources for Elementary, Middle, and High Schoolers. Resources differ by library, but in general they should help students build and hone core skills.
College Prep Center is where it’s at for the college-bound student who doesn’t want to/can’t shell out for courses but wants to practice. There are practice exams for: ACT, SAT, PSAT, MSQT, AP tests, TOEFL IBT, and THEA. What I love about these practice tests is that you can take them in 3 modes: Simulation, meant to model the time you’ll have on the test; Practice, where you can see answer explanations after you’ve finished the test; and Learner, where you can view the answers to questions as you go to help you study. There are also some test guides for these tests.
High School Equivalency Center is for people who need GED prep (including GED prep in Spanish), HISET prep, and TASC prep. There are also a couple of skills assessments for different subjects to help people assess where their skills are.
College Center has skill reviews, grad school admissions test prep (GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MAT, MCAT, PCAT) and a ton of other stuff like ACCUPLACER, ASSET, COMPASS, and CLEP prep.
And finally, there is Recursos para hispanohablantes, with skill builders for reading, math, and writing/grammar, as well as GED prep.
The different “Centers” offered by LearningExpress Library might differ by library, but all of it is super great!
tl;dr LearningExpress Library has a ton of shit to offer for different types of people and you should all check it out!
“In recent years, archivists, historians and librarians have been asked
to curate the aftermath of catastrophes: school massacres, a nightclub
siege, a bombing, a rampage during a Bible study. The ease and speed
with which the sprawling memorials appear belie the years of work that
almost always follow.”