I like books. I've always liked books. I was always bringing my parents and grandparents books to read to me when I was little, and I never really kicked the habit. Of course, after a while, they made me read them myself.
Now, learning Dutch, reading is a big part of learning and exposure to the language in general. A few weeks into the course, Nelleke had use meet at the Haarlem Central Library, where we got a free library card for a year. (And, well, the course runs for a year and a half, so recently we've also otten a 6-month extention.) I was enthousiastic about checking out books form the 'NL Plein,' a section of the library specifically for integrating foreigners. Some books are simply Children's books, some are "dumbed down" to shorter, easier to manage versions of novels, some are learning aids. So for several months, I would check out the maximum of 6 books and hold onto them for six weeks or until the rare instance that I finished them all. This happened much more frequently when I was just checking out the easy-reader books. I "outgrew" the level 1 books quickly and moved on to level 2. I have all but cleared out this section, without reading every book that's there, about "The Five Senses" or "Big Cats" or "Marakko." These are useful if you're trying to build your initial vocabulary, but unless you're really into books about bunnies who get scared at night, you can only take so much.
So I've been poking around in the level 3 section, which is a big jump above the rest, and at the same time, I've been so busy studying, that I just don't want to read Dutch when I'm through learning Dutch and talking Dutch and listening to Dutch... On top of that, I've gotten myself involved with the Pony Central fandom and need to spend time on projects there as well. So my motvation and time for reading have waned. It's not exactly relaxing to have to look things up in the dictionary as you read. Sometimes I can skip past things I don't understand--expressions, for instance, like falling with one's nose in the butter--and sometimes I can ask Arno what things mean, but it's intrusive on the whole reading experience.
I keep trying to take out 6 books, but lately, it's decreased to four, and I've had months where I haven't finished any. I'm making an earnest go at it this time though, trying to get back into the swing I had earlier. I've finished one short book of stories about mistaken identities, and have three to go before I have to return them in April.
I'll let Arno talk about the library itself, since he was rather impressed with the changes since he was a kid. I will say this for the Haarlem libraries... they have a network set up so that you can take a book out from any location, and return it to any other library in Haarlem. Convenient, though I only ever go to the Central one.
Now, as for the library... It has been a long time since I went to the library. The last time was sometime in 1999. I had finished university and therefore lost my source of internet access. At the time getting internet access was an involved process with a long waiting list. Heck, I was lucky to get the newfangled cable internet, so I wouldn't have to pay per minute to chat over a landline! The library that I went to had an actual computer with internet access that could be used for half an hour at a time. I used this to check for e-mail and keep in touch with people over the long waiting period.
Much has changed in ten years!
I know libraries as places where you have to be quiet as you pick out your books, which you might even read right there. Quietly. I guess that for as long as they existed, libraries have been repositories of knowledge and literature, and appropriate respect was to be afforded. This day and age, though, you go to the internet for that (and for LOL-cats). The main library building today is a buzzing place with computers, internet, music, an actual keyboard for making music (with headphones) and, yes, books. And it's not so quiet anymore. You can actually talk in the library now! You're expected to keep the conversation level civilized, of course, but really... Libraries have become a lot more cool. And then there's the automatic system for returning books and the easy and fancy self check-out system... I was stunned by the difference some ten years had made!
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