Posted by jeff on Feb 01, 2011

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Athenaeum Library Goes ‘Wireless’

Christine and BethWireless Books – Fortnightly, Saturdays noon-12.30pm

Dunedin woman Beth Sizemore’s early memories of visiting the city’s Athenaeum Library at its Octagon location have led her to share the library’s unique history via radio.

Ms Sizemore co-hosts Wireless Books on Otago Access Radio every second Saturday at midday, alongside the Athenaeum’s chief librarian Christine Powley. Together, they explore the library’s colourful past and promote membership of the Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Society through discussion of books, old and new.

The Athenaeum Library was a constant in Ms Sizemore’s life, beginning with weekly family visits throughout her childhood.

I remember it as always being warm and welcoming, with high shelves stacked with thousand of books, and a balcony that I would clamber up the stairs to reach,” she said.

The best feature was the old pounds, shillings and pence till which is still there today, though I’m not sure I ever saw it used.”

Wireless Books was an opportunity to realise “the promise of all those books”, with Society members invited to provide reviews and to talk about their own association with the library. Musical interludes would complement the topics of the day.

Ms Powley said the history of the Society was rich with interesting stories. Founded in 1851, the library was almost as old as Dunedin itself.

There were no bookshops in those days. An agent based in London would fill an order, predominantly novels and books on natural history and gardening, and out they would come, from across the sea,” she said.

We are also a mechanics institute, and that was all about self improvement. Talks would be given in the evening about worthy books, but there were also some fairly saucy ones that were more popular than anyone was likely to admit.”

The radio show would likely appeal to anyone interested in the library’s history, but was very much about the joy of reading, she said.

What’s lovely about books is that they lead you to other books. You can try them out – you might be surprised.”

Wireless Books airs on Saturday at midday on OAR 105.4FM and 1575AM, and live and podcast from www.oar.org.nz and iTunes.

Photo: Sharing a love of reading: Christine Powley (left) and Beth Sizemore, hosts of Otago Access Radio show Wireless Books.

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