Libraries are much more than just about books

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I called to my local library the other day, curious to know exactly what was available beyond just books. Actually, I also wanted to sneak a free look at the Irish Examiner (I have a free month’s digital trial of the Irish Times) but someone else was trawling through a copy and in my 30 minutes there I think he only made it to page 2.

No matter, I spent the time checking out the books. Ballincollig library isn’t very large, but it’s a comfortable size, with a children’s section from where I heard one girl reading aloud from a book. It’s lovely to hear children embracing the power of words and hopefully that joy will stay with them throughout their lives.

Meanwhile I was checking out the shelves. Ignoring the sections on popular women’s books (sorry ladies), I found myself gazing at a fat tome on broadcaster Walter Cronkite. That looked interesting. Too big for a browse though. Instead I found myself sitting down to pore over an anthology of Irish poetry. Poetry isn’t really my thing – too much of it reads like poor prose, but that’s my opinion and who cares about that? I settled on a couple of poems by Paul Durcan whose collection Life is a Dream is the only work of poetry in my small library. At least there’s a bit of fun in his verses.

I left to meet my wife without checking out the library’s full services. In fact, I wasn’t even a member, something I intended to remedy another day. Just a day later I was back because I happened to be with my sister who was returning some books. Lorraine is a regular user of the library. She left me roam around while she made enquiries at the desk about some novel she was seeking, and then gave me a tour. Ah yes, Lorraine knows her library. She showed me the self help section with volumes on coping with depression and mindfulness, anger management, bereavement, bullying, etc. It’s all about taking care of your emotional mental health and wellbeing and was developed in partnership between Cork County Library & Arts Service and the HSE South Lee Primary Care & Child, Adolescent & Family Psychology Services. Plaudits to all concerned.

Lorraine then showed me the Citizens Advice booklets on benefits for the Over 60s (please don’t mention my age) and told me Citizens Advice run regular clinics at the branch, saving you the hassle of travelling to Cork City.  Incidentally, the Cork County Library and Arts Service has 27 branches from Youghal to Sherkin Island, plus a substantial HQ at Carrigrohane Road, Cork.

Workshops and readings also take place in the Ballincollig branch which has a very helpful staff. It’s a fantastic resource centre and a great place to while away an hour or two in research or just reading. You can also access Zinio digital subscriptions to magazines like The Economist, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, plus many others – all free. Well, you do have to join up, but library membership fees are modest: Adults, €2.50, children 50c and senior citizens free. It’s well worth it.

Eh, there’s just one hitch – you need photo ID and a recent bill to prove your address. It used to be so simple to join a library, just giving your name, address and phone details. I wasn’t expecting that and I don’t normally carry bills around my person, so I left crestfallen. No books for me. Ah well, I’ll be back soon with that bill.

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