Another Happy Place

My friend asked me, what did you want to see in Virginia? And I said, “I don’t know.”

Lately, that seemed to have been my common response to many things – “I don’t know.” It was the most honest response I could think of most especially since I did not want to tire myself with a lengthy explanation that may not even amount to an ounce of truth. I figured, “I don’t know” will clarify my sudden appearance or will at least elaborate the confusion that I am wrestling with for some time now. This answer, of course, did not really help my friend. She was not sure if the places she will suggest would appeal to my taste. I only gave her a headache and an additional task to chew on, on top of her already full plate.

But, my friend knew me enough to take me to a place which she was certain would make me happy as a bee – the library. It was not just any library, it had to be Slover Library.

slover Library

Slover, meet Den. Den, meet Slover.

I know. It’s beautiful. (And) like all beautiful things, for a moment, I hesitated. I thought of the usual obstacles that I have encountered in the past when confronted with a colossal beauty such as Slover – how much will the fee be, can I bring in the food and drink that I was carrying (it would be such a waste to just throw them away), will I even be allowed in the vicinity since I was not a resident, and finally, how the hell will I deal with the nasty librarians. In a span of 30 seconds, I weighed on the possibilities only to be assured by my friend that public libraries in Norfolk was not like the public libraries we had back home and I will be glad to enumerate my whys.

These are why Slover Library is my happy place in Norfolk.

It’s free.

free slover

That’s right, it’s free and open to the public. No fee, unless you need to pay for purchases in the gift shop or for late returns of books you borrowed. You can go in and out as freely as everyone else without the burden of needing a library identification card. When NLP announced its mission, it truly held true to the statement of providing equal opportunity access to information, high quality books and multimedia materials, and on-line resources to meet the needs of Norfolk’s diverse community.

This is a huge deal for me. I already raised my hat to Slover with this very basic advantage as I am an avid believer of the notion that everyone – regardless of social status, color, salary bracket, nationality, gender, or age – should have the opportunity to life-long learning through the resources provided by the government.

I remember in the past how different it was with the libraries back home. The guards will ask you for your ID or library card, if you don’t have one, either you have to get one first or leave. Even if you will not borrow a book and simply wanted to read, that has always been the requirement. No ID, no entry. So now you have an idea why I hesitated in the beginning.

In my country (beautiful as it is), there are many children who have no books and/or have no access to books but can read and write. There are many children who cannot afford to continue going to school. There are adults who want to continue learning but do not have the means nor finances to buy or to utilize learning resources. There are underprivileged people who are curious and would enjoy learning but are intimidated by establishments and their entry regulations. When one wants to read or learn something new in general, one should not be hindered by a library card, an ID, or other absurd rules which indirectly serve to discourage. It should not feel like the queue in an immigration line where one has to have the right papers like the visa and passport before you will be allowed access.

You can stay as long as you want.

slover nooks

Well, not as long as you want but as long as within the library hours without feeling like you need to leave.

There are many reasons why one would want to leave the library prematurely;

1. There’s that librarian or library staff who will do everything in their power to make you feel uncomfortable because you seemed to have overstayed. Overstaying would probably mean an hour or so or your discussions with your study mate, despite talking in whispers, would still be too loud. There is no appeasing a monster librarian they say.

2. Much needed decent facilities matter a lot. Facilities like restrooms or toilets you can actually utilize or an eating space where you don’t need to leave the library while researching would really come in handy.

3. Comfortable tables and chairs in spacious reading areas with the view of the city are really (very) conducive to staying longer than planned.

In Slover Library, all three reasons can go down the drain. There’s just no reason not to stay.

Internet access, multimedia labs, meeting rooms, and gaming spaces!

slover spaces

There is wifi all through out the building and the connection is not on a turtle’s pace. Well, at least when I was there which was a couple of times. Also, it is not limited to an hour or two’s usage which is usually the case for other establishments. How generous is that.

If you do not have your own laptop, you can use the library’s user friendly equipment with no hassle and minimal supervision (aside: well that notion felt like a cover letter for a job application). If you need privacy and would need your own room for a meeting then you can reserve one of the library’s conference rooms. If you want to unwind and play games, be it board games or online ones, there are gaming spaces in the vicinity. If you need something printed, you can do so here. They even have their own 3D printing machine which I thought was the coolest thing I have encountered in a library so far. 3D printing will cost you though, but at an affordable price. I got my R2DU printed for only $3.88 which was already very cheap. If you want to develop new learning skills or other skills in general to increase literacy, there are free programs that you can check out.

The point is, everything – most especially the current technological need – is well within your reach.

Everything at your own pace and convenience.

slover check in

Remember the monster librarian or library staff I had to deal with in the past? I told my friend that I did not want to deal with that. She smiled and told me that we didn’t have to. She took out her Slover borrower’s card and asked if I have all the books I needed (she was allowed to borrow 10 books by the way, a far cry from the limit of 3-5 books from where I am from). Note: You only need the card if you want to bring home some of the materials. We then went to the check-out desk which was not manned by anyone (Yey!) and placed the books on top for scanning, entered the card’s number, and “Voilá” it was all done. It was amazing! This is probably very common around here but it’s not for me so you could just imagine my eyes while I was roaming around. I swear I had hearts in them!

And for your information, I did not encounter a monster librarian or mad-at-the-world library staff here. Every person who worked there had a ready smile, had time for small talk, and they go out of their way to accommodate my concerns. If they ever had problems, they certainly did not allow those problems to affect them at work. Hurrah for professionalism!

It has a vast collection of materials.

slover books

I was told by my friend that the old building burned down a couple of years ago and have lost many of its collection, but I sure did not feel the ‘lacking’ factor when I was there. Its collection ranged from materials of the classic genre to the more recent, often more popular, literary works. There are five floors and if I am not mistaken, 4 of those housed reading shelves filled with books and magazines, not including e-books.

I have other reasons for falling in love with Slover Library but these five are the biggest. If you happen to be in Norfolk, visit Slover Library. It will be worth your while. Besides, it’s in the town center and is near other interesting landmarks like the museums, the mall, and the light rail stop.

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