More than a library

I’ve always taken refuge in libraries. As a kid growing up in Toronto, where it was hot enough in the summer months to fry eggs on the sidewalk (my dad actually did this once, showing off for the neighbours), the library was the only air-conditioned building in my neighbourhood.

We got shushed a lot, but for my friends and I it was a far better option than lazing around all day in pools of our own sweat. There was a resident guinea pig there to get into staring contests with, filing cabinets full of short educational reels to watch in private rooms, a whole section of comics and cartoon compilations, and, when we got around to it, an impressive collection of books to read.

We mostly hung out in the kids’ section, but occasionally popped over to the adult area, where it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, to look through National Geographic magazines. Boys will be boys.

I’ve always been a reader, but when you practically live at your local public library you tend to devour books. If I didn’t have such an excellent library just two blocks from my house, or maybe lived just a little bit closer to the public pool, I would probably be a very different person than I am today.

The library was one of the reasons I chose the University of King’s College in Halifax over other post-secondary schools. It’s a small but beautiful building, financed heavily by well-to-do alumni, and just happens to house one of the most impressive collections of old books anywhere in Canada.

The downstairs was always cool, quiet and dark, with glass cases along the back wall filled with museum-quality artifacts and displays. I used to go there at crunch time when I had a report I had to finish by yesterday.

Too far from home, I also used to go there to nap and to sleep off hangovers between classes, laying my head down on my bookbag in a private study carol and snoozing until my watch alarm went off.

I took a year off University and spent a winter in Banff learning to snowboard and generally goofing off. When I arrived in town, long before I found a job or made any new friends, I sought out the library. It was small and located in the basement of a quiet corner building just off Banff Ave., but it had one of the most amazing collections of books and magazines I’d seen anywhere. I didn’t feel settled until my library card finally came in the mail.

A few years after graduating from King’s College, I came to Whistler. I spent a few weeks sleeping on a friend’s floor and putting together a resume and spec stories for Pique Newsmagazine, which means I spent a lot of time in the library.


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