Here is a letter we received for our project at Armagh Robinson Library #FillingTheVoid
Often, in history, women wrote anonymously because their voices were silenced. It’s possible, our writer is a woman. Here’s what ‘she’ says,
LOSING MY LIBRARY – MAKING A LIFE
When the doors of our libraries open again, we want the first people who step into them to be the people we are protecting from harm, those we are keeping safe.
These are difficult times and they are temporary times. The libraries will open again and we will encourage the tactile relationship with the book to our young. We will encourage the familiarity and peace of the binding, cover, and content to our not so young. We have closed our libraries and left our books waiting for us, so that we might make those of us who are vulnerable to illness safer. At the same time we are reducing their community and social lives in the name of safety.
Picture the empty library wherever it is and walk its stacks, shelves or those metal contraptions aping shelves, in your mind. The book has survived war, fire and pestilence. It is a comfort and a repository of knowledge. It is a companionship and a portal of wonder. I grieved for a short time when I left my library, my feral cat (Rosie), and most of my possessions. This is what I have learnt: The vulnerable human being is more important than the encumbrance of possessions, even of books. We can rebuild and refurbish our personal libraries.
We have to leave our public libraries for the shortest time. They are houses for books, and our support of them should move toward encouraging more funding, they provide, shelter, community and knowledge. I chose not to dwell on what I have left because it does not one whit of good to the heart and soul. Keeping access to libraries is an act of healing for those who have lost. Letting go of possessions in an act of liberation is a story that might go into a book, or an email, or a conversation.
My library resides in the house that I left forever one May afternoon. It is, at this point, on shelves that go floor to ceiling in two huge alcoves in a huge room. Some of the books were crowded onto a desk with a red leather top, that has been repurposed for a woman whose frailty does not allow her to retain the information in the book or newspaper that she pretends to read. Forgiveness is difficult and it has to be practiced. I practice it toward her a lot. I can sometimes see her when I pass the house, she is in the top room and beneath her is a pathway of river pebbles. I used to listen to how people moved on the pebbles and try to discern the footwork, friend or foe? To the right in her line of vision is a tree that was planted by Louise Gavan-Duffy. My children used to tell me that they heard the echoes of kids running on the stone corridors of the house late at night. The house was used as a schoolhouse over its entire history, there will be echoes. There will be things tying a soul to the house, but they are not important things. The human inhabitants of the house are the important things here.
Harm and the protection of others from harms is a driving force that I wish for everyone. It is my greatest wish for people who are in situations that can and do threaten life. When you leave that place, you do not take your books, your bits of jewellery, the vast majority of your clothing, or the things that maybe you loved once. The bags have been packed for three months and you are awaiting an opportunity which is technically a moment in time. It has to be the right moment and it has to be well timed. My library resides there and the books that were lovingly collected, referenced and handled are still there. There have been letters about their custodianship, as if holding the threat of loss over a head would change a mind. Once a heart and a mind have made a difficult decision, there is no going back – the only relevant question is when?
This too, is a moment in time, when everyone has to do the very best they can to protect those who are vulnerable and in need of care – we must look at what has to be sacrificed and to do it willingly and without qualm. When the doors of our libraries open again, we want the first people who step into them to be the people we are protecting from harm, those we are keeping safe. They know the value of the book and they know why we are doing it. Call on them, leave some books or flowers for them, let them know that you are there for them too. Look on the streets and in the shops, they are always there early and they are often alone. They are endeavouring. If we can lessen the impact among ourselves and reduce closures times by observing the rules of social distancing,we are giving back.
My books reside under a custodian. I do not.
The books in this library will be found again and will again give comfort to their true custodians.
Join in – send a letter to a loved one. Keeping in touch with the people you care about most, is the number one priority. And, you can also send us letters. The blank page will always be listening, and at the letters archive of #FillingTheVoid at the Armagh Robinson Library, we will be glad to receive your letters too. Email: FillingTheVoidProject@gmail.com
This project is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, through National Lottery Funds