Words and photos by Jenni Mazaraki
There was a time in high school when I carried Charles Dickens’ novel, David Copperfield around. No, it wasn’t about a magician. It was about a boy who made what he wanted of his life.
Borrowed from the school library, the book was bound in navy blue leather, embossed with a decorative design that was elegant enough to let me know that this was a serious book.
It was an unusual size, smaller than A5 but larger than A6. It fit neatly in my hand as I travelled on public transport and had a satisfying weight to it that felt grounding amongst the chaos of the peak hour rush.
Carrying that book around made me feel like I could somehow be imbued with some of the flourish and insight of Dickens’ writing. It reassured me between exams and essays and expectations that there was something other than school. I carried that book around for such a long time that it was added to my school fees. I wish I knew where it was today.
When I borrowed Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina from the school library, I had it on loan for so long that it was added to my school fees too. It was larger and heavier than David Copperfield and I must admit to this day I have not finished reading it. I left it at a friend’s house and then she moved to Sydney, I assume with my book and my Smiths’, Louder than Bombs LP.
I have single-handedly been responsible for sizeable donations to local and university libraries over the years. Otherwise known as late fees. Fines. I like to make myself feel better by telling myself that my inability to hand library books in on time results in the library receiving a donation to help maintain their very excellent services. I apologise to the person who was recently waiting for Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please. I know my overdue book fine doesn’t help you much.
So that’s why the Little Free Library program is so good for people like me. Even though the movement is designed to ensure everyone has access to books, it means that I can take a book and swap it when I am ready. No fines, no pressure, just the joy of reading. The program originated in the US and has found its way to Australia. There’s a similar program called the Street Library which operates in the same way.
I picked up a beautiful old book with a sweet inscription to Aunty Norma at the free library at the Community Bank Stadium in Diamond Creek. This library was set up by Anne, a staff member at the centre who wanted to share her grandmother’s beautiful books with people who would appreciate them.
The book I chose was given as a gift to Anne’s grandmother from two cousins. Written in a lovely script, the inscription on the inside of the book read, ‘To dear Auntie Norma, With best wishes from Janice and Elaine, Xmas 1950.’
There are other libraries at Macleod, Hurstbridge and Greensborough. Such a nice way to spend a quiet moment, just you, a free book and no library fines.
To find a Little Free Library or Street Library near you, see the websites for locations.
(Please note: Jenni works for Greenhills Neighbourhood House.)