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Why I like My Library

At Stroud Branch Library, on alternate Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, the first task is to put the kettle on. We have to get the priorities correct. When patrons arrive, especially if they are from "out-of-town" we offer them a hug and a cup of tea or coffee. This is a ritual we continue throughout opening hours. We have done this for years.

On Saturday an elderly out-of-towner arrived, given the same treatment and sat in our now comfy chairs and read the local paper, before selecting her borrowings.

As she was leaving she told me her news. That she was leaving the district in a month's time, and that the most pleasant experiences she had had in the district were her visits to the Stroud Library. That she had met the friendliest people whilst in the library. We were the only people who ever gave her a hug; that the staff had treated her with respect; the only people who spent time discussing books, literature and films with her.

It made me so proud of our borrowers and staff. But isn't it sad that our society has become so distant from one another, that a fit older single person's highlight of a fortnight, is the visit to the library?

Sue Filson
February 2012

Librarians are Wonderful People!

Recently, while in the U.K. staying with friends in the Cotswolds and scheduled to join a riverboat departing from Amsterdam on May 24, British Airways cabin attendants decided to go on strike. With only forty-eight hours notice in a computerless household and British Airways refusal to answer their telephones, my host and I dashed into Lechlade and the local library, where the chief librarian, bless her heart, swung into action. B.A. was contacted, the cancellation confirmed and a new booking made for the day before the boat's departure.

So libraries aren't all about books. They are managed by people who care about others, and are prepared to go beyond the call of duty to help in situations like mine. To all librarians who love their jobs and serve the public in so many ways, we wish you well.

Noelle White (FOGLLS member), July 2010

An Australian Odyssey*

Poetry has always been part of my life, from the Hungarian and German children's rhymes I learned at my mother's knee to heroic folk epics and ultimately, to the grand scope of British poetry from Chaucer to T S Eliot. But nothing prepared me for Fredy Neptune.

When I first joined FOGLLS two years ago, Audrey Semon told me that Les Murray was the patron of our branch of the Friends, and asked if I had read any of his poetry. Having come to Australia fairly recently, I admitted that I hadn't, as yet, although I was aware that he was a major Australian literary figure. "Good!" said Audrey, putting a fairly thick volume into my hands, "perhaps you would like to start with this". The book was Fredy Neptune, a novel in verse. Idly, I began to read....and carried on reading....

It is almost impossible to categorise this remarkable and complex work. Fredy can best be described as an Australian Odysseus of the Twentieth Century, the Australian-born son of German immigrants who travels the world and gets caught up in all the major events of the times, from being a witness to the horrific Armenian genocide in 1915, to life in Australia during World War II. Through Fredy's sufferings, his anger, his compassion towards the underdog, his triumphs and disappointments, we catch a glimpse of a spirit that is uniquely Australian, a better understanding of our place in the scheme of things.

Fredy Neptune is not an easy read, not a work that can be read in a few hours and cast aside. It lives with you and haunts you and makes you think painful thoughts. But it is well worth the effort, and I look forward, with all the other Friends, to meeting Les Murray at his birthday celebration on 17th November.

    Livia Richardson (Committee member)

    * First published in FOGLLS Newsletter October 2008.

Library Story from Tony Maniaty - Author of Shooting Balibo

Tony Maniaty

"For kids of my generation, growing up in the 1950s and 60s, the word 'library' was usually a downer: a nervous quietness, implications of authority, the fear of Knowledge with a capital K. None of that put me off. Maybe it was the relative coolness of the library at Ironsides State School in Brisbane that drew me in; the blazing Queensland sunshine outside countered any thoughts of playing sport. What I discovered in there was not books so much as magazines; in 1959 the library had a vast collection of yellow-bordered National Geographics going back to the 1920s, all of them featuring the objects of my lust: flashy American automobiles of each generation. (Memo to librarians: if you can find any way to get a kid into a library, including rampant consumerism, go for it.) My real love affair with libraries came a few years later, when I found shelter in the Redcliffe City Council Library. It was there I graduated from comic books to serious literature in a leap probably too extreme for most psychologists to get their heads around - I went direct from Donald Duck and The Phantom, to the murky, noir-ish novels of Graham Greene. At 14, I was identifying not with chest-beating war heroes but Scobie, the failed public servant in Africa in 'The Heart of the Matter' whose existence was falling apart in some seedy tropical colony. I really wanted to be Scobie. I devoured all of Greene's novels, including (surprisingly, when I look back) 'The End of the Affair', a particularly adult novel about marriage and adultery and failure.

Oh dear, where is the librarian who set me off down this path? What were her motives? Without knowing it, of course, I was falling in love not with the plots of these novels but the idea of becoming a novelist; to me it seemed the perfect occupation, to dream worlds, to place yourself (or alter egos) in dream worlds, to set your imagination on wild journeys into the unknown, and hopefully to make a living from it. It's a dream I'm still working on, and it all began in the dusty corner of a council library."

Writer, lecturer and journalist Tony Maniaty has worked for the ABC, Radio Australia, Visnews (now Reuters TV), the BBC World Service and the Boston-based MonitorTV. He has covered the 1975 war in East Timor and the 1991 Gulf War, worked in Paris as SBS TV's European correspondent, written short films, features, television dramas and documentaries and published two novels - The Children Must Dance and Smyrna, which was short-listed for the 1990 Miles Franklin Award. His very popular and widely acclaimed latest book Shooting Balibo: Blood and Memory in East Timor is a vivid account of his journeys to East Timor in 1975 and 2008.
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