Friday, August 14, 2009

Keepsake or Library Book?

Just thinking how I have an overdue library book that needs returning to the Wellington City Library. As usual, I think my overdueness comes down to the fact that I like to keep the books I read. The reason is simple, just glancing at the spine of a loved, stimulating, challenging etc book retrieves the feeling I had reading it. A whole wall of them is better than any other pick-me-up I know [I'm looking at them now as I tap upon the laptop].

The overdue book is Kirsty Gunn's The Keepsake which she says she wrote to scare herself . It resonates with The Bluebeard fairytale and is pretty creepy, but the lovely language and oblique story-telling make it feel like a long poem. An astonishing work that I would really really like as a keepsake of my own. But back it has to go.

I was fascinated to read on Beattie's Bookblog about the first Wellington City Library which was also the first library in the country. The pic above is detail from lithograph of Wellington in 1841. The library is to the left of Barrett's Hotel – the double-storeyed building in the centre of the image.

Here's more from the website Graham Beattie linked to:

New Zealand's first public library, the Port Nicholson Exchange and Public Library, opened in Wellington in 1841. Established by a group of the city's first settlers, it operated for one year in a building on the corner of Charlotte Street (now Molesworth Street) and Lambton Quay, an area now occupied by the Wellington cenotaph.

In 1842, due to a combination of defaulting subscribers and competitors, it closed and offered its contents to the Mechanics' Institute that was about to be established. The Institute and other groups continued to provide library services to the city until 1893, when Wellington City Council established a council-owned public library on the corner of Mercer and Wakefield Streets, not far from what is now the central branch of Wellington City Libraries.

The foundations for the Port Nicholson Exchange and Public Library were laid long before settlers even began arriving in the New Zealand Company settlement in 1840. Prior to the departure of the first ships, a committee had been established to ‘make provision for the Literary, Scientific and Philanthropic Institutions of the new Colony'. This ensured that the first settlers arrived laden with donations of books. more

Now that's a lovely image.


PC said...

I just received an automated phone call today from the Dunedin library to inform me I have an overdue book!

I think it was wishful thinking - I must have just put it away on my shelves...

P x

Jim Murdoch said...

Yes, I'm very much the same. It actually bothers me quite a bit that I don't own all the books I've ever read. I keep wanting to go and refer to one only to realise that I never actually owned it. Worse is the feeling I get when I go to find a book only to realise that I lent it out and it never came back to me. Like you I get great comfort from just being around books. Bookshops are such calming places as are libraries.