Friday, February 26, 2010

An Ode To The Newcastle Regional Library

People are always talking about what they would do if they became really, really wealthy. Houses, holidays and hookers are usually the favourites ('The Three H's'), but there is something a bit different that I have always thought I would do. If I ever got even slightly wealthy, I would make as big a donation to the Newcastle Regional Library as I could afford. I would also like to live in a house where the walls are made of aquariums but that's a whole other kettle of fish, or house of fish as the case may be.

"Why a library?" you might ask, "There are so many worthy causes out there, what makes you think that is the best place for your dollars?"

Here's the thing. The Newcastle Regional Library was one of my favourite places in the entire world when I was growing up. This was mainly because of the music section. Most libraries these days have a cd section of some description, but it is usually limited to Vivaldi and Delta Goodrem. The music section at this library was like nothing I'd ever seen before. It was updated on a monthly basis and contained music I had trouble finding anywhere else. This was before the time of internet torrents, so it really was that amazing.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the cd section at this library changed my life. Borrowing these cds was the first I had heard of music that wasn't just played on the radio. I can remember picking up a little album called 'If You're Feeling Sinister' by a little band by the name of Belle & Sebastian. It blew me away. I didn't know music could be so... good. I went on to feverishly get my hands on everything they had ever recorded. The night I finally ended up seeing them live was just one of the best nights of my life.

From there I picked up Darren Hanlon's 'Little Chills' and my mind was blown again. I remember taking it to school in my little discman. My friends got so mad at me because I spent the better part of a week not talking to them in favour of sitting by myself, listening to it over and over again. Seriously, the things I would do to Darren Hanlon. I can't even go into them without feeling filthy and disrespectful, but let's just say: it would take several days before I would be finished.

Other bands I heard for the first time because I picked up their cd at the Newcastle Regional Library include: Beck, The Pixies, Augie March (years before Moo You Bloody Choir brought them to the mainstream. I'm talking Sunset Studies here. Man, I am going to listen to that right now), The Bees, Bright Eyes, Broken Social Scene, The Fiery Furnaces, Built to Spill, Camera Obscura... the list goes on. Let's just say: all my favourite bands.

The Newcastle Regional Library was the single biggest influence on my musical tastes. It taught me not only that there were excellent bands out there, but because there was such a vast supply of material it taught me how to form my own opinions on music, how to decide what kind of things I liked. Every time I considered moving away from Newcastle, I had to seriously evaluate whether I could move away from the library. It was that good. I honestly don't understand how such an oasis of musical culture could exist. If I didn't still have all those burnt cds, I might think it had all been a mirage.

Of course, I eventually did move away. I can honestly say that the library is probably the thing that I miss most about Newcastle. I mean, there is the internet now, but it's just not the same. Don't get me wrong, I love the internet, but nothing can compare to seeing the shelves upon shelves of such wonderful albums all free for the borrowing.

-Smackie Onassis

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