I remembered! The absolute Best thing about Van is the public library system. My library on the North shore has the incredible bonus of being newly constructed with mostly glass walls so that if you go to the 3rd floor during the early evening you can watch the splendour of the sunset from the study section. This isn't just any sunset, it is the sunset over the ocean, from a pleasing height. It really is gorgeous.
This does not even have anything to do with the cerebral pleasures contained within the library's heaving shelves. Yes I can make the library sound sexy, because it is. (Especially the downtown library, which appears to concentrate on hiring nymph-like yet vaguely androgynous looking graduate students; the type that have Dewy decimal numbers tattooed on their wrists.)
I like to test the library, just to see if it is really as amazing as I like to think. I think of books I read long ago, books I only half recall the title of, then I look for them on the online catalogue and see if it true that this library could take all my crappiest thoughts on Neanderthalic North 'Cougar and flush them down the loo. This library just never fails. I found the wondrous works of the seemingly unheard of Elizabeth Knox, a book I recalled wanting to read that had Trieste in the title (Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris) High Art on DVD, the whole of Veronica Mars, the legacy of John Marsden who scared me witless (delightful!) as a teenager....but then the best gift of all. The entire High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag.
Downtown I was awed to discover that the library not only carries another healthy selection of comics and graphic novels, but it has an entire section devoted to Zines. I had thought Zines were purley a mid-90s phenomena that sprung up solely to inform me of new bands and bad poetry that was being created across the country before the internet was even a figment of our collective imaginations. As it happens, they still exist. I shouldn't be surprised, since Book Art as a genre still exists. Book Art however, protects itself with the sparkling yet invisible cape of chic mystery bestowed upon anything with 'art' in the title. Zines are clearly made by people who do not believe in the value of the invisible cape, they think that what they scribbled on their wall last nigt at 3am is art and that computers and our reliance on them is the true embodiment of evil.
They are my people.
The reading room at the Regional Assembly of Text is another pure joy and it offers a selection of handmade books that wear the Book Art cape but have Zine-like sensibilities. I could live in there.