Legal at the Library, and Other Free Books

By Susan Roberts

I don’t suppose there are many people in this day and age whose prime motivation in acquiring a local driver’s licence is so that they can join the nearby library, but then – I’m not like most people and never have been.

I still have my South African driver’s licence, but in Australia one’s driver’s licence is the main source of identification for everything – from registering a new SIM card to boarding a local plane to joining the municipal library. Once I realised that a licence from Vic Roads would open the door to books as well as cars, I knew that this was an item I desired even more than a bank card.

The process to convert to a Victoria driver’s licence was fairly painless, largely because the staff at Vic Roads are friendly, patient and efficient, and my little plastic card with my name, mug-shot and address arrived in the post last Friday – just one week after I handed in my paperwork.

Over the weekend it dawned on me that, come Monday, I could visit the library and sign up to a whole new world! So that’s exactly what I did. Like most places in Australia, the staff were friendly and efficient, and before long I was all signed up and legal. Access to books was finally in my sweaty little paws!


The next hour flew by as I poked around bookshelves, DVD shelves, audio book shelves and… Oh, just everything gloriously associated with the goodies that bookworms like me get excited about.

It got me thinking about libraries in general, and how much they have changed over the years since I first joined the children’s library in Pietermaritzburg back in the late 1960s. Back then it consisted of only books – fiction on one side and non-fiction on the other – and I went through both sides like Scheherazade’s husband wanting more and more stories to satisfy a thirst for books that staggered even me.

A year or two later the children’s library moved across the road into an old church hall, and after I’d exhausted their collection I was allowed to move into the grown-up section in another building around the corner. In 1975, all the scattered parts of the library moved into brand new premises behind the City Hall.

What an Aladdin’s cave it was with everything under one roof at last! Four or five storeys high and full of reading matter; air-conditioned, quiet, with soft carpeting to deaden the footfalls, and cushioned seating for those who had no pressing engagements elsewhere. Of course, during my school and university years, I made sure that I spent plenty of time there. It was right next to the central bus terminus in the city, so it was always convenient to pop in, even if briefly.

One of the most fascinating places in that new library was the newspaper and magazine section, upstairs next to the reference section. One could not check these items out and take them home, but had to read them there. And read them I did – magazines about theatre and film became my guiltiest secret along with newspapers from other cities. The Star and the Pretoria News were always easier to get to because local newspapers like The Daily News and The Mercury usually had a queue of people hanging around, waiting to browse the sporting news, job advertisements and horse racing tips.

Libraries today are a little different. For the past ten to fifteen years, I belonged to the municipal library in Durban, and I enjoyed borrowing books, videos on VHS, audio books on cassette, and sometimes even large print books when I couldn’t find the ones I wanted in the normal section. As time took its toll on my ageing eyesight I borrowed more from the large print section, and I also started borrowing DVDs once the technology moved forward from video tapes.

I have always loved listening to audio books in my car, and as each successive car came with updated players, I made the move from cassette tapes to CDs about the same time that my library did.

I no longer drive a total of an hour each day to work and back, so I’ve fallen out of the habit of listening to audio books, but the rest of the pleasures still apply. In Australia, the latest technology allows you to do things in a library that I’ve never even heard of, let alone understand. I have no idea what “kits” are and I wouldn’t have the vaguest idea how to download something called Freegal Music songs or Zinio e-magazines, but I do intend to find out!

I love the idea that one can borrow books for free, and I took my first two home from the Narre Warren Library on Monday. I’ve never shied away from buying books, and most of my friends will testify to the fact that my book collection took up a good portion of the space in my various small cottages in South Africa, but it is a relief to know that I don’t need to buy every book that I’d like to read.

While we’re on the topic of free books, I must tell you that my Italian novel Benicio’s Bequest will be free for five days on Amazon next week. For those of you who have joined my emailing list, I’ll announce the exact dates early next week, and those who follow me on my Susan’s Musings blog, Facebook and Twitter will also get a heads-up about it.

So, if you enjoy romantic mysteries but haven’t yet read my third novel and would like it for free, you can download it from Amazon next week. I do hope you enjoy it. As I always say: if you enjoy it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads, and if you don’t enjoy it, please feel free to drop me an email via my contact form on my website or blog, and tell me what you didn’t enjoy. I promise to never take offence at constructive criticism, and your comments may help me when writing future novels.

If you like the idea of free books but don’t fancy mine, then why not pay a visit to your local library and enjoy some time there. It’ll be worth it!


7 thoughts on “Legal at the Library, and Other Free Books

  1. jac dowling says:

    From one committed bibliophile/libraryphile to another – Good on you mate!! and viva libraries and well done for getting your drivers so quickly. Maybe a lesson or two out here wouldn’t go amiss although they do, on occasions, manage a faint smile/grimace. Lovely piece Susan, thank you. Perhaps you can start a Friends of the library and Bhuki Cafe once you’re properly settled?

  2. Glad you got there, Sue. It’s been a while since we went there together. I am sorry to say that I don’t frequent the local library. I got to a point where my ‘eyes were too big for my time’ and I was supporting them by paying more in fines than the cost of the books I borrowed. Apologies to Jac. I was, however, incredibly impressed and excited by the library services I discovered while in Upper Coomera, Brisbane, particularly the free classes on mastering skills such as computer, email, internet, technology in general etc., storytelling for tots and other interesting activities to uplift the community.

  3. jac dowling says:

    Ha – guess what…two of our Bhuki crafters are starting art crochet classes after Friday tea, in the Bhuki. Great idea. R35 per hour and good use of our vast craft section. Also, we’re buying new shelving to accommodate all the new Friends’ book donations. It’s just so good to know that libraries elsewhere are also thriving and being loved and cared for. Again I say – VIVA.
    Seriously though Susan, Friends and Bhuki play a huge part in the community’s friendship and cultural life. For me, the library just wouldn’t be the same without it and us. There’s so much exchange of ideas each week and excellent support from the library staff. Enjoy yours – I’m sure you will.

    • Susan says:

      Thanks, Jac. I’m going on a road trip soon (will need to take some books with me!!!), but will investigate the library in greater depth when I get back.

  4. jac dowling says:

    Enjoy your trip. Please avoid the road trains…

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