Springwood, in the lower Blue Mountains, is a busy place on Saturday morning. Amid the general bustle of a sunny weekend morning, the Vinnies was seething with people, there were tables set up along the street with sausage sizzles in progress (at one you could buy a cup of cask wine to go with your sausage), stalls selling raffle tickets with which you could win a dinner for two in Leura.
The Springwood Library is just beyond the stretch of shops, in a brick bunker of a 70s building with two signs warning people not to skateboard in the vicinity of it or its tempting sloping footpaths.
Just inside the doorway was a wall of pamphlets, for book clubs, bird watching clubs and other such Blue Mountains activities, neatly arranged in perspex holders. This is also where the stray bookmarks are deposited. A number of libraries I’ve visited have collections of lost bookmarks, although this is the only one which has displayed them so prominently. As much as I have tried to use proper bookmarks, I always seem to lose them and end up using a receipt or a scrap of paper instead. Bookmarks are a sign of the kind of organised person I have not turned out to be.
At the door was a table with for sale books on it, and beyond that a red-painted alcove with some knitting-in-progress on the table. On the wall behind it was an advertisement for a knit in, to take place in the library on the third of August. Was the knitting just there to attract attention for the knit in? I looked around at the people in the library and none seemed to be taking a break from knitting. The waiting knitting carried with it a strong sense of presence but I wondered whether it was actually the start of a scarf or a jumper or just a prop. I could have pondered the knitting for some time but instead I went to look at the books on the new arrivals shelves.
The most interesting book out of all those in the new arrivals section was one titled The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. At first I thought it was a book designer’s attempt to make the book look DIY, then I realised that it was actually a book made by the library, a notebook that was about a third full with handwritten book reviews. This book had a barcode attached to it, so you could borrow it to read reviews or to add your own. Many of the reviews were done by one person, whose neat handwriting and photocopied illustrations made me think – librarian. But I equally like the idea of one very eager library user, making weekly contributions to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, taking the time to photocopy relevant illustrations and sticking them in alongside their review.
I had only a few minutes to look around Springwood library, and so made a quick assessment of the key areas. I noted the man established in a sunny corner reading through the Saturday paper – surely the most satisfying of all weekly papers for the newspaper reading men of the library, being the longest. In the opposite corner of the library, past the computer terminals where a few people were hunched, browsing the internet, was a bookshelf full of telephone books. I hadn’t seen phone books kept in a library before, being more used to encountering them in the post office (although I haven’t noticed them in post offices for a while, they have probably been replaced by picnic sets, 3 packs of kids’ books, and digital photo frames, among the proliferation of post shop tat). In the days when phone books were a more essential part of daily life, I would get a jolt seeing phone books for other cities. I have always liked phone books, it is like being able to hold entire cities in your hands.