Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

What good is a library?

Public libraries are surely one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, havens of solace and joy offering free entertainment and endless discovery. Magic happens when you pick a book off the shelf, scan the first paragraph and lose yourself in a story that transports you to another world, all the while sheltered and protected in the warmth and welcome of a public library.

I found this wonderful photo on the Emory University website, on a page dedicated to religion and public health. Serendipity? Who knows

I found this photo on the Emory University website, following a random search. The page is dedicated to religion and public health. Serendipity.

But what if you can’t read? I’ve been thinking a lot about libraries this week, partly because I launched a book in Broken Hill library last Friday, and partly because I attended the AGM of the Friends of Balmain Library on Wednesday. I once worked as a librarian, albeit not a very good one, and libraries have always been a source of delight for me.

If you can’t read, what good is a library then? Does it become a threatening place? Does it even register? Many years ago I used to occasionally take a back seat in church – any old church, any time of the day, wherever I happened to be – and more often than not I’d leave moments later in tears. Why? Because I didn’t feel like I belonged. All that beauty and serenity didn’t sooth me; it only served to remind me how unhappy I was, and how much I longed to understand and accept love.

Thankfully life has changed and now I can sit in church without sobbing, not that I go very often (hypocrisy and the hierarchy of power put me off). I hate to think that there are people who might feel the same about libraries, where an entire world of joy and wonder is closed to someone who can’t read.

I never gave up occasionally sitting at the back of a quiet church – even though I didn’t  participate in the service – and it brought me solace of a kind.  Would the same happen in a library? Perhaps. Thankfully, as Lyn French knows, it’s never too late to learn to read.

Lyn French and her husband Rob

Cattle breeders Lyn French and her husband Rob

There is pleasure in handling a book, especially an old one that others have handled; something of their spirit lingers in the fragile pages and worn covers. I love the near-translucent sheets in my aunt’s old prayer book, or the parchment-thick pages and black and white illustrations in the gardening encyclopaedia I inherited.

My two favourite places are a garden and a library, and to my mind there is no greater pleasure than sitting in a garden on a sunny day, sheltered by trees, reading a good book.

It’s so much easier to do that in someone else’s garden of course, where the weeding won’t have to be done and wilting broad beans won’t demand to be staked; where the leaves don’t need to be swept and the citrus trees don’t have to be fed; where caterpillars can be left to munch on cabbage leaves and the slugs can plan their assault on the strawberries.

Organic sheep farmer, Cath Marriott

Organic sheep farmer, Cath Marriott

Perhaps that’s why I’m looking forward to visiting Cath Marriott in the Victorian high country around Benalla next week. Cath has created an astonishingly diverse garden on her organic sheep farm, Yarallah, which boasts sweeping views across sloping paddocks towards a meandering creek bordered by mature trees – it’s paradise on earth, in my humble opinion.

I doubt if there will be much time for reading, but I’ll slip a book or two into my bag, just in case.

For anyone reading this post within striking distance of Benalla, I’ll be talking at the local CWA in Benalla on Thursday June 4, at 2pm.

Meanwhile I’m off to my local library, in search of a good book.



PS Remember that stubborn final fig I told you about? It ripened while we were in Broken Hill and I sliced it for breakfast this morning – a delicious reward for cultivating patience.

9 comments on “What good is a library?

  1. Gaye Priestley
    May 29, 2015

    If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero.
    Looking forward to your Berry visit. Gaye


  2. nantubre
    June 1, 2015

    I am with you about books and reading. Such a comfort when I need an escape or an appeasement for my curiosity or thirst for information.
    I also identified with you sitting in the back of a church on occasion. The one exception is that while I felt unworthy from time to time, eventually it became the one and only place I felt accepted and loved.
    Love your writing, Deb. I wish it were easier to get a copy of your newest book!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      June 2, 2015

      We share so much in common Nancy, and every time I hear from you I am reminded of that! I think the latest book is available as an ebook in America, sadly not as a ‘real, proper, hold it in your hands and flick through the pages’ sort of book. Needs to be a best seller for that I reckon! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. dreamymichaela
    June 2, 2015

    What a wonderful and fitting introduction to reading your blog, Deb! All about libraries and books – my BIG love! – and mixed in with the pleasure of gardening, or at least, relaxing in a garden. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by my blog. And I look forward to reading more of your stories and thoughts reflecting your life in Australia – one of my favouritest of places! Hahaha!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      June 2, 2015

      Isn’t it lovely to meet other people who share your passions? I love browsing the web and coming across blogs like yours, delighted you’ve enjoyed reading mine, best wishes to you for all your creative endeavours!

      Liked by 1 person

      • dreamymichaela
        June 2, 2015

        I’m just discovering the incredible fun of discovering other people with similar passions via the world of blogging, Deb. And I’m loving every minute of it! 🙂 Thank you for your good wishes, and I hope the same for you.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. candidkay
    June 2, 2015

    I walk in, take a deep breath, smell that library book smell, and smile:). One of the most sacred places in the world to me.


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      June 8, 2015

      And isn’t it wonderful that you can find a library in just about every town you visit? Hope you’re doing well Kay, I’ve been out of touch for a while, I’m heading over to your blog to say hello!


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This entry was posted on May 29, 2015 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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