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Friday 9 December 2022

How Libraries Tasmania Helped Me Double the Books I Read in 2022

Have you discovered audiobooks yet? Lyndon Riggall shares his discovery of the wonders of audio reading with an extensive range of books at your fingertips via your public library. 

Whenever I think of Arthur, the delightfully charming educational PBS television series based on Marc Brown’s popular book series of the same name, which recently ended after 25 seasons and 253 episodes, there is a rap song that comes immediately to mind. I’m thinking of the track featured in the episode, “Arthur’s Almost Live Not Real Music Festival”, which includes the repeated refrain, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card,” as the characters of the series proceed to describe all of the types of books and worlds, fiction and non-fiction, that can be found in your local library.

This maxim has become especially pronounced for me in recent months as I have discovered some of the resources that are available through the online services of Libraries Tasmania. While I have always favoured my Kindle when it comes to e-reading, and rarely read on my phone where so many other distractions are rife, I have been a huge fan of audiobooks and have often used them to fill in all of those quiet parts of life when I am walking, driving, cooking or exercising. This has always worked well, but it has by no means been particularly affordable. The library offers so many reading experiences for free that it has always seemed a shame that my life hasn’t really ever suited the audiobooks in the collection that can be found on CD… sadly, my car doesn’t even have a CD player!

I was explaining this situation to a friend one day earlier in the year, who quickly announced, “But what about Libby and BorrowBox?” Phones hastily came out of pockets to show me what they meant, while I instigated a couple of downloads and began scrolling and borrowing… within seconds I had a story calling out to me from my phone’s tinny speaker. Suddenly—I was shocked and amazed to discover—I was quite literally up to my ears in audiobooks. It was that easy.

Screen shot from Libby library

And yes, all you need is a library card. By inputting your Libraries Tasmania information into each app you can very quickly gain access to thousands of ebooks and audiobooks. The genius of these two eLibrary services is that they make reading as easy as opening Facebook or Twitter, and they are much more pleasant for your wellbeing. Just opening them now I can see Ash Barty’s Memoir My Dream Time (read by Miranda Tapsell, no less), Dostoyesvsky’s Crime and Punishment read by the actor Will Poulter, and entire sections of other titles dedicated to recommended reads from #BookTok, the Tasmanian Literary Awards and the Booker Prize longlist. For kids, I managed to dig up some Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Wings of Fire, Lian Tanner, Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Ahn Do, Babysitters Club and Aaron Blabey. Between the two services you can have up to fifteen digital loans out from the library, which of course is in addition to any physical books you might have already borrowed… plenty to fill the summer holidays.  

Screen shot from BorrowBox library

Thanks to GoodReads and its tracking I can be very clear about the effect that this discovery and new habit has had on my reading life: in 2022, I have doubled the number of books that I have read from fifty-two, to what I expect will be more than a hundred by the time the new year rolls around. I am lucky, I know, that I have the kind of life where moments of quiet are available to me: an audiobook ticking away through my headphones as I drive or do the dishes. I am also a fiend that listens to books on double speed which is definitely not to everyone’s tastes and can be prone to send people fleeing from the room in horror if they happen to overhear it. Nevertheless, I suspect that most of us have little pockets of time available to us where a story could keep us company. In cases where mundanity strikes, life is better with a book. 

Of course, there are still some small bumps in the road with these two apps. Firstly, both BorrowBox and Libby continue in their persistence of ensuring that only limited “copies” of texts are available to users… which has never made sense to me as a method of operation, dragging one of the key flaws of the physical library kicking and screaming into the digital world. There is also the fact that the existence of the two different sets of books can make it hard, at times, to actually find where something is, often sending you back to the library catalogue just to get some clear answers. These minor quibbles aside, however, I think it’s fair to say that in my experience both BorrowBox and Libby are not only exciting new additions to the offerings of a library in the 21st Century, they are—quite literally—life-changing. 

It’s true. Having fun isn’
t hard when you’ve got a library card.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s a beautiful day and I’ve got reading to do. 

Lyndon Riggall
Lyndon is an English teacher at Launceston College, as well as the author of the picture books
Becoming Ellie and Tamar the Thief. Along with Georgie Todman, he has recently been named Co-President of the Tamar Valley Writers Festival.

Screenshot of Jennie's latest uLibrary reads

Editor’s note:
I wholeheartedly agree with Lyndon as per a long-ago post from me Audiobooks – They Speak for Themselves. There is another app that broadens the scope of titles available from Libraries Tasmania. Visit https://libraries.tas.gov.au/elibrary/elibrary-books-and-audiobooks/ to find out about uLibrary and other apps discussed today. For our readers from further afield than Tasmania, I urge you to investigate the public library ebook and audiobook offerings in your own location.

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