Thomas Keneally’s Library – and mine


As the end of your life started to come into clearer focus with age, what would you do with a personal library collected over the period of a lifetime? The books that you fawned over and then paid for at a favourite bookshop, gifts given for birthdays and Christmas, books borrowed from friends on pains of death to return and then never given back, or dare I even suggest, the occasionally lost library tomes that got lost in the shuffle of life.

Tom Keneally, celebrated Australian author askedhimself the same question of his personal 2500 book library and after judicious advice, decided to donate it all to the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.  What a wonderful idea. Give the books lovingly collected over the years to a school so that the precious resource of literature isn’t lost to the rubbish dump or broken apart into meaningless little chunks.

But I wonder if Thomas Keneally wasn’t Thomas Keneally, Australian Living Treasure, if his collection would have been treated with such respect and care. I know that many people donate books to the Ottawa Public Library, and they are sold off at bargain prices (sometimes as low as $0.25 a book) rather than being added to the main collection. Often I wonder if it isn’t an insult to the deceased who left their book collections behind, hoping that the books would become part of the city collection. Although anyone who bequests the library with their collection must surely know that their precious collection will be torn apart, don’t they?  Perhaps the best idea, if you aren’t a famous, prize winning author that is, and you have a sizable assortment to share with other book lovers, is to find a small school library in which to place your collection. 

Obviously I think the best plan is to hurry up and get published, win  a few prestigious writing awards and make sure that someone, somewhere will want my collection of books when I eventually go to meet my Maker. So tell me, what are your plans for your collection? Or are you like me, and haven’t actually given it much thought – until now!


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