1 April 2022 Susannah

Book Addict Visits a Library – St Helier’s Bay Library

St Heliers Bay Library

I hope that many of you have special memories of childhood visits to the library? Today I’d like to celebrate the very first library I remember visiting – St Helier’s Bay Library in Auckland, NZ. Located in the heart of the local shopping centre and a short walk from a pretty beach, it’s a fairly ordinary brick building (it opened in 1931), but for me, it is a place of superbly happy memories. My Dad took us there every Friday night and it was the highlight of each week (thanks, Dad!). After we’d each checked out books (my pile was always bigger than was anyone else’s in the family), Dad then purchased a large block of Caramello chocolate. Then it was home to read in bed, there to blissfully eat chocolate and a crisp green apple, while starting a new book. As I grew older, I would walk there after school. I have since, on return visits, given talks there – something I could never have dreamed would happen when I was a child borrower.

Taking children regularly to a library is vitally important. In this library I made my way through career books for girls (Diana Becomes a Vet, Sue Barton, Student Nurse, etc), I devoured Mary Stewart’s mystery novels set in exotic locations, I made my way through Mills & Boons (I still giggle at the thought of one hirsute hero named Brodie Fox who had a “pelt” on his chest), and I found classics that were lacking from my Mum’s book collection. I remember the exciting day I carried home Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor and my Mum told me that in the film version the actress playing Amber was ordered to keep one foot firmly on the ground (my imagination went haywire over that one!). The memories of books taken from St Helier’s Bay Library are so rich and good. I only have to walk into the building to feel a sense of happiness wash over me.

Please do everything you can to foster in your children or grandchildren the same love for their local library. You may not be immediately aware of the benefits you are giving them, but you could well be changing their lives. Those childhood visits changed mine!

Do you have fabulous memories of the library you went to when young? Do share them, as I’d love to know which humble or grand buildings set you off on the reading path? Tell me by leaving a comment here.

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Featured image credit- St Helier’s Bay Library, http://librarylatitude.blogspot.com/2012/
Body image credit- St Heliers Library, https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/venue/st-heliers-community-library-auckland-central
Body image credit- St Heliers Library, https://foursquare.com/v/st-heliers-bay-library/4c9d5d9d7c096dcbfcc2cad1/photos

Comments (16)

  1. I have two stories, one about me and one about someone else that are pertinent to this subject.

    My story is that I grew up in a house without books – no money for books. I wanted to read when I was young and would go to my local library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – USA. We have a wonderful library system. The librarians were always helpful and I read many books growing up. I have read a lot of the classics including Shakespeare’s entire works, With it all I always say I wish I was smarter, But I am pleased with what I do know.

    My other story is about Carlos Eire. I loved reading how, when he was forced to leave behind his family and friends when his parents sent him out of Cuba to save his life as part of the Pedro Pan operation, he managed to find a tiny Miami, Florida library and read every book in it. To this day he credits that experience with choosing his career for him. Today he is a professor at Yale University. He teaches early Renaissance History and religion. His extensive knowledge of his subjects began when he exhausted that library’s offerings.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I loved both your stories, which illustrate so wonderfully the importance of libraries. Many thanks for sharing them.

  2. Helen

    We didnt have a local library when I was small. My parents bought me books for Christmas and birthdays,so I had lots of reading material. When I was about eight, a brand new library was opened in the school I attended. Such excitement! The polished timber floors were beautiful and we had to wear calico covers over our shoes in order to avoid scratching the floor.Sounds very quaint! What a wonderful Aladdin’s cave was opened for all the children. I still remember the first book I borrowed was “Charlotte’s Web”. I have read it many times since,and am still moved by the beauty of the language and the wonderful description of all the characters. As if it were yesterday, I remember being heart broken and teary at he ending of this gorgeous novel.

    In order to borrow not only were we required to cover our shoes, but we were also required to have the mandatory library bag with us,otherwise no borrowing!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh, I loved hearing about the shoe covers and library bags.
      Isn’t Charlotte’s Web wonderful, but so sad. It always makes me cry.
      I can just imagine the excitement of getting a new school library!

  3. Pamela Whalan

    The first library I visited was in Lambton, Newcastle, NSW. It was, and still is, situated in a charming cottage in Lambton Park. You walk down a short path, under a rose trellis and enter the large, book-lined room. It is as much of a joy to go there today as it was in the 1940s when my mother would pick me up after school on Wednesday and drive the two miles between school and the library to listen to the story that was read to those of us sitting cross-legged on the floor. Then I would change my library books. We were allowed two books every visit. Among my favourites were the books in the Dr. Dolittle series.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Wasn’t the Pushmepullyou a marvellous fictional creation!
      Thanks for sharing your memories and it’s nice to know the library is still there.

  4. Charlotte Cook

    I remember my sister, Michelle Cavanagh and us three siblings having a weekly visit from the mobile library to our village in Leicestershire. U.K. It was amazing the amount and variety of books, both adult and children, that was inside that mobile library. As a child I was a very slow reader; I’m still not the fastest in the block. But I loved that mobile library. Charlotte Cook

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Nice to hear from you, Charlotte and I hope you can visit Australia some time soon.
      I also used to visit a mobile library. I wonder if many places still have them – they were a fabulous idea.

  5. Suzanne Williams

    Firstly I remember St Heliers well as friends of my family the Talboys took my sister and I out every Sunday ( as we were boarders) during term time for a delicious roasts and a swim at the beach ( weather permitting) .

    Libraries are still be used in our family …my daughter at 36 still uses her local library in London for study and research.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am glad you also know St Helier’s Library. I use libraries at least once a week and just love being in a library. Great that Edwina uses her local London one too.

  6. Carol Noble

    When I was growing up there was no public library in our village. I always received books for Christmas and birthdays. My favourites were the Little Women books and of course all the Anne of Green Gables books.Later three newsagents opened and in the back corner they created a little library.So I would join, read all the books and then move on to the next shop! That meant I could read The Twins at St Clare’s and Mallory Towers without buying them. My present library in Howick is a lovely place .So long may public libraries stay free to all.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, Howick Library is an excellent one. I am glad you shared my love of Little Women and Anne of GG.
      It sounds like that little collection of the books at the back of the newsagents was a much-needed source for you.

  7. Linda Simon

    Hi Susannah
    The first library I remember visiting was St Heliers Bay Library too. I lived in Dingle Crescent and loved walking down to the library, taking out books both for pleasure and study.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Lovely to hear from another good user of St Helier’s Library. I know Dingle Crescent, so can picture exactly where you live!

  8. Kate Ferguson

    I have happy memories of St Heliers Bay library from visits to my great-aunt in Polygon Road. My first library was Bexley Library where I, apparently, threw a tantrum at not having my own library card at 18mths, was given one and have many happy memories of searching through shelves for a new book or three to read, searching through the old paper index drawers for other books by the same author or topics. The first book I can remember reading is Madeline but still reading furiously 56 years later!!!!!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      How wise to insist on a library card, even at such a young age! I am so glad my happy memories of the St Helier’s library are shared by others.

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