This blog entry will focus only on the Stadtbibliothek. A second part about the university library, and possibly more book and library-related musings will follow at some point.
I realise that this might be a niche topic on a blog targeted, at least according to its name, at backpackers, i.e. tourists. But then again, it also aims to provide information for people already living in or planning to move to Rostock and MV. And maybe – just maybe – there are some weird bibliophiles like me around who agree that going to the library in every city you visit on holiday is, in fact, not at all strange. Cause that’s what I tend to do. Just spending some time in a city and trying to get a feel for it is really fun. While I do also most certainly enjoy stuff that’s more touristy like going to all sorts of museums, I think that when you go to designated public spaces which are primarily for the locals, it gives you a different access to the atmosphere of a city. You can go through a mental checklist: if I was living here, would I enjoy spending time in this library or not? What about the selection of books? What else is on offer media-wise? Any DVDs, CDs, games? Do I feel comfortable being here? Could this become my second living room? Somewhere I go to feel safe and at peace – a few minutes away from everything on a stressful day? I guess it’s also worth reminding ourselves that libraries are one of the very few remaining non-commercialised public spaces apart from outdoor areas that haven’t been fenced off etc. … (What with community and youth centres having been closed down left and right because of cuts. This is even more so in Germany, where most museums unlike e.g. in the UK charge admission fees.)
Anyway, when I moved to Rostock, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that becoming a library member is actually completely free of charge here. I come from a big and poor city in the west of Germany where that is sadly not the case and where you have to pay a (small) fee. So, to my mind, if you move to Rostock, there’s almost no excuse to not join the library.
I will say this once, there is more than just the Central Library in town; there are also all the smaller branches spread out all around the city – my experience, however, has been limited to that one for the most part. So that’s what’s I’m mainly referring to when I talk about “the” library. See here for a map, contact details and opening hours for all branches. Keep in mind that the central library is open daily from Monday to Saturday while the other branches are only open two to three days a week and usually close for a lunch break (12 noon till 1 pm). But even though these branches are smaller, they have a lot to offer, like book cafés or gaming days.
But as I said, I’m most familiar with the central library on Kröpeliner Straße (see map at the bottom). So I’ll let you in on my favourite spots there. Firstly, the reading room on the second floor: that’s where I go to do work for uni when I want to be around “normal” people rather than stressed students like myself, especially during exam periods when the atmosphere in some of the university libraries becomes palpably tense. Secondly, and less quiet (as it’s on the ground floor next to the lift) but more comfortable: the YA fiction corner with four comfy chairs. It’s also next to the manga section and there is an entire section of English language-YA books. The selection of English language novels, not just in the youth corner but over all in the library, is really not bad given the size of the library, though there are fewer books to be found in other languages. What saddens me to this day is that two or three years ago the library got rid of all the Swedish books, apparently because there was not enough demand. This is even more regrettable given that the university library has no Swedish novels and books from Sweden, unlike those from other countries like the UK, cannot be ordered by book shops in Germany. I can, however, absolutely recommend Bokbörsen for used/second-hand Swedish books at low prices. (Apologies for this Swedish books digression on Swedish books.) The final spot not to miss in the library is the section on the ground floor just past the stairs on the left side, where you can find books on sale that the library doesn’t need anymore. Admittedly, some of those are just rubbish or totally out of date, but I have definitely picked up some real gems over the years, considering that prices usually range between € 0.50 and € 2 or € 3…
Unless you are a teacher or work with young people in another context it’s probably not too interesting… But I think it’s really cool how the library fulfils important educational and pedagogic functions, like the way in which schools can get a box of books around a certain topic or just a broad range to choose from to have in class for a few week and then get a new round of books again, along the same lines, guided tours for school groups in the library can be arranged thematically to match topics discussed in class. And even though, like all public institutions, more staff would probably be welcome at the Rostock libraries, positive developments like getting a new member of staff to further develop pedagogic concepts should definitely be acknowledged and appreciated.
In relation to educational objectives of the library, I would also like to point to the library’s blog, particularly one recent post which showcased a number of newly purchased children’s books relating to various different topics like diversity in sexual orientations, gender roles and identities, as well as mental health, addiction, death, mourning, etc.. Having had some discussions about diversity in children’s literature a while ago, I was really happy to stumble across that. But the blog also offers all sorts of other insights into the world of books, the library, book reviews, tips, pointing to events at the library. It’s not like I’m the most regular reader of that blog. I’ve got it book-marked, however, and every few weeks I check out the last few posts.
If you, like me, love watching films, you do have to pay to take out DVDs from the library; this does, however, not apply to documentaries you can find in the subject sections (like history, art etc.) on the first floor and the reading room on the second floor rather than the actual DVD section (also on second floor).
One thing which could actually be of interest to the lost tourists and backpackers among you, if you lost your phone, your battery died or whatever has happened that left you with no internet access, for me, whenever I travel (due to still not having a smart phone and refusing to take my laptop everywhere…) the place I turn to if I am in need of an internet connection (for free!) are the public libraries. Some libraries require you to get a permanent or temporary library card while at others, like in Rostock, you can get guest access for 30 min.
Gratis Comic Tag 2019 coming up on 11 May!
For all of you who’ve made it through (and maybe even somewhat enjoyed my library-related ramblings), here’s my tip for you what to do if you’re in Rostock on 11 May 2019 (actually applicable even if you’re not in Rostock cause this cool event is taking place all over Germany, as well as Austria and Switzerland). So, the Gratis Comic Tag (GCT), as you may have been able to guess, even without a considerable knowledge of German, is about getting comic books for free! It takes place annually and is organised by publishers and retailers. A selection of comics is produced and launched specifically for that day (check out here what’s on offer this year). I’m actually not super into comics, unlike some friends of mine, but I still enjoy them and will most certainly try to make it to this year’s GCT, especially considering that I only got one of my favourite birthday presents this year because the person who gave it to me got an excerpt of it at a free comic event. (It was this really cool graphic novel/comic, a selection of interesting women’s biographies. Also see here for the prequel, including a preview of the chapter about Tove Jansson’s – of Mumin troll fame – life. Both parts are also available at the library!) One more cool thing about comics (pointing out the obvious here) is that even if you’re not a native German speaker, you can still get a lot out of amazing visuals. So, why not drop by at the Central Library on 11 May or go to one of the other retailers taking part in this year’s GCT. In town that would be Thalia and Hugendubel book shops, Have a look at the map of retailers on the official page to find all locations in Rostock and elsewhere.
Published late, so GCT is already over for this year. But maybe you’re around for next year’s…