As long as I can remember -certainly 40 years or more – I have been a member of the public library, and for a while even of the library of the university. I started reading at the age of 5 and since books have been my life. Even when I moved from Sneek to Leek, from Leek to Groningen, even when I was a student and hardly had money, I always kept my library subscription, as I can’t imagine my life without books.
I always was looking forward to go there every few weeks to hand in the books I read, and get new ones. For me a library has always been a peaceful haven, preferably without too much noisy activities. A place where I could stroll between books for hours if needed. First I would have a look at the newest books that had just come in, before looking at the bookshelves. Lately I have been saving a list of books I’d like to read in an app on my mobile, so if I have some difficulties finding books, I can try to find the ones on my to-read-list.
Last November my regular library moved into a new building, as part of a huge multifunctional centre. I loved the new, much longer, opening times, so I could go there on a quiet Saturday or Sunday morning, or in the evening, if I wanted to. Not so much the openness and hustle and bustle of the building. There is lots of space for students to study and they’re really everywhere. Most of the books I want to read are on the second floor, although if I would want to read something royal or historical, I might have to move a few floors up. But I never thought of going to another branch in the city, as this one was on walking distance, and the library just across the street long gone.
When I arrived this Sunday morning, just after opening, there was a huge queue outside the building, mainly with students. Since the corona crisis started there is only one entrance, and people have to use sanitizer dispensers. I didn’t want to queue, as many people didn’t yet wear their face masks as they were still outside, and only added them when they got inside the building. Not everybody did his best to keep distance either. Face masks for your information, are still nog obligatory in this country, and we’re waiting for a law to make it necessary to wear them inside public places. So I waited for quite a while until the queue had nearly gone, about half an hour after my arrival. I just handed in my books in the hall, and when I didn’t find anything to my liking among the newest books, I left the building as soon as I could. I didn’t feel safe anymore, for the first time in my life books didn’t make me feel good. An awful feeling!
For now I have decided this was my last visit for the time being. I could go to another and more quiet branch of the library in the city, but would have to go by bike instead of on foot. The branches certainly are smaller and will have less books available, so I would have to order more. I don’t think I’ll go. There are still books at home, in my possession, that I could read. And last November I also bought myself an e-reader and have a Kobo Plus subscription. I might borrow e-books from the library online. But as long as Covid-19 is around – and it is spreading rather quickly here at the moment – I prefer not to go anywhere near one of the most beloved places I can imagine … the library itself. I’ll miss it!