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‘My library is an archive of longings.’—Susan Sontag

Published 18th November, 2019 in MRP Guest Blogger

One of my earliest memories is of getting caught in the revolving doors at the State Library as a three or four-year-old. In my own account of it, I was there with my Grandpa, and tripped and fell and ended up being pushed round and round inside the doors until some kind stranger was able to get me out. 

Recently, in thinking about funny anecdotes I might be able to bring up at library talks, I mentioned this incident to my mum, and recounted the scenario to her. She very kindly did not laugh at me, but told me that in actual fact, I only got the back of my sandal wedged under the door, causing the door to stop revolving with me trapped between the two doorways of the entrance, and the kind stranger, rather than swooping in and rescuing me from the vortex, actually saved me by pushing the door just enough to free the back of my sandal and to give me enough space through which to make a hasty exit.

Up until that point, I had been avoiding revolving doors whenever possible. 

Anyway, this was my earliest memory that involved a library.

Libraries were a part of my life for much of my childhood. My Grandpa would babysit myself and my two siblings once a week while my Mum was at work, and often this would involve a trip to the Bull Creek Library (past the terrifying ‘noisy truck way’ where the goods were unloaded for the local Target—can you tell I was an anxious child?). I was also a regular attendee at the Winthrop Primary School Library, and in year seven, became a Library Monitor, which to me was far more important than Faction Captain or Head Girl. Then, like most teenagers, I stopped going to the public library quite so much.

I didn’t return to library use until 2013, when my friend Simon and I made a pact that we would try to read all of the novels longlisted for that year’s Man Booker Prize. It had been so long since I’d used my library card that it had expired and I essentially had to sign up all over again, this time as an adult. Three years later, I was working for a library vendor, and it was my job to go into libraries to make sure they had all the best books in their collections. By 2017, I was a member of six different libraries. 

It wasn’t until 2018 that I realised where all of this had been heading; I’d been a bookseller, but the store had closed, I’d been in other retail positions but the pressure of meeting sales targets made the jobs somewhat tedious. All I wanted to do was meet interesting people and talk about books. How had I never thought of working in a library before?

Enter any public library on any day, and you’ll see people using computers, children doing puzzles, students preparing for exams, groups of people knitting colourful scarves, people finding out about their family trees, people discovering their new favourite authors, parents singing to new babies, people playing board games, people learning how to use the iPads they got for Christmas, people meeting new friends, book clubs arguing over whether or not the book they read was any good, writers reading from their work, kids making mobiles out of straws and wool and cardboard, people reading the newspaper (and fighting over the Financial Review)—people doing incredible things in a public place where you can spend time and not have to spend any money. 

By the end of next year, I hope to have finished my Masters in Library and Information Studies, and while it’s been hard work, it’s also been the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  So my question to you, in this, the last of my blogs for MRP—when was the last time you visited your library?

Read Emily’s first three posts with us: ‘I’ve Got the Music in Me,’ ‘What is a well-behaved woman anyway?’ and ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know: Lord Byron’s got a lot to answer for‘.

Emily Paull is a former-bookseller and future-librarian from Perth who writes short stories and historical fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies as well as Westerly journal. When she’s not writing, she can often be found with her nose in a book.

We publish high-end literary fiction, crime and the best short stories currently being written in Australia.

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