I rarely visit a library in the city. With all the technology we can endure at home, plus books I’m certain procreate when we’re not looking, there’s hardly the need. When I do drop in, in spite of the “new” look of today’s libraries, these are still subdued, conservative places. Upon entering, you can’t help but lower your voice. Last time I was in the Leaside library; a mother behind me “shushed” her children so sternly that even the librarian apologized for making too much noise.
Libraries in the country, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Visit one if you haven’t had the chance. These are the thriving hubs in small communities; and except for the books, they bear little resemblance to their city counterparts.
Baysville community library—where everybody knows your name
In the sleepy town of Baysville, for example, there are days in the summer when there’s barely a sign of life on the dusty streets. But pop into the local library and it’s party central. I mean this in a good way. While showing off the bright, two rooms to a visitor one afternoon, the sound of children working on a project in one corner was barely audible compared to the laughter coming from a group of seniors in another corner playing mahjong.
Two people (one I didn’t even know except by first name) called out loudly to invite me over to their place for a glass of wine; and at one point, the entire room erupted in the singing of happy birthday to one of the librarians. All this while a dozen visitors worked on computers with free WIFI, half a dozen more sat around a table reading, chatting and working on laptops, and a line-up of folks signed out books at the counter (also purchased raffle tickets and locally-made soap, and enjoyed homemade cookies with the complimentary coffee).
Dorset community library, watch your head
Not to be outdone by its counterpart, the town of Dorset, a mere 20 km away, also has a library. Part of a community centre, the library is a small room with books—a space about the size of an average Mississauga kitchen. The building is also crawling with people because it also has meeting rooms, a ping pong table, and for some reason, complimentary showers.
In an adjoining hallway by the library, there’s a small cul-de-sac for “information science,” that is, the corner where they put the computers and WIFI. Not sure on the intentions behind the original design of the building (not sure any design was involved), but one of the walls in the computer section is actually part of a squash court. Yes, a glass wall—and for the record, the glass wall does not reach the ceiling
A sign above the computer I was working on reminds visitors of two things. First, check in with the receptionist (where the sign reads, “If I’m not here, please find me”) and second, limit your time, especially if others are waiting.
No problem there. A squash ball whizzed past my head and bounced inches from my (expensive) mac computer. A rather sweaty guy crawled under the desk to retrieve it; when I looked at him quizzically, he said, “Well, hello there.” Not wanting to complain (I mean, the WIFI was free because I was able to produce my tax bill), I asked if it was common for squash balls to leave the court in this manner. “Not common,” he replied, “But it happens.” And he smiled.
Three squash balls later, and I decided I’d scored enough free data, given the risks involved. Making my way through the parking lot packed with cars, I noticed they were all occupied with folks, madly working on their various devices. I had initially thought they were trying to bypass the free WIFI rule (having, perhaps, not used to carrying their tax bill with them wherever they go).
I know now that they had simply forgotten their protective headgear.