Tag Archives: national libraries day

National Libraries Day

It’s late, I know. My blogging has fallen off in recent weeks ¬†and I can only blame the day job workload and a stinking cold. But a quick few words because it’s National Libraries Day.

My first library was a bus. A mobile library that came to the close where I lived. I on’t remember it well, though it may have been an odd blue colour and I do remember wondering how the books stayed on the shelves, as you do.

But then they built a new library, brand spanking new, down the road from my house. I went to the opening with my mum, got out loads of books and refused to talk to local radio about how glad I was that the library was there.

From that day I went a lot. After school, on Saturday mornings while my dad watched Football Focus, after school again, after school and Saturday mornings. For years. I must have read so many books there. I remember one, a YA dystopian fable called The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Robert Cormier, I forget what it was about except that I was hooked and I got so cross at my dad who laughed at the title, thinking it wasn’t tackling enormous issues of life-threatening import. I remember being the latest in a long line of teenage girls asking for their copy of Forever by Judy Blume, just as the librarians had taken it out the back to try and mend its crumbling spine and loose pages from so much reading and re-reading.

My school had a library too. More books to read. And then there were university libraries. I found them impossible to study in, instead always looking around, taking in the titles and the grafitti on the tables. Photocopy and borrow the books to read elsewhere, that was my strategy. This is as true today as it was then – I can’t work well in libraries. When I was studying for my post-graduate diploma I had a visitor’s pass to Nottingham Trent University’s library. They only let you have access for a few days per year; you were essentially a non-paying student using their resources, and you couldn’t borrow anything. I had to get my research done in those few days. It was incredibly difficult and I only managed it by constantly playing The cave Singers two albums over and over again on my ipod.

Nowadays my library visits are mainly with my daughter who, at three, is already a big fan of the library. It was one of the first places to make us feel welcome as a mother and daughter combo, offering tots time singing sessions and signing her up for a library card before she was six months old.

I am incredibly lucky in living somewhere that the local Council recognises the importance of libraries, has been funding them and is working hard to improve literacy rates in children. Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone realises what they are losing. Fight to keep them. They are a lifeline to so many.

The joy of libraries

It’s National Libraries Day! Here are some reasons I love them:

  • They’re one of the last places you can spend time where you aren’t being sold something. Every time I read an article talking about how libraries can diversify their income in tough times by putting in a coffee shop a small part of me dies. If I want coffee I’ll go to a coffee shop. In these commercialised times, where everything is judged by its monetary value, I believe our wellbeing as a nation comes down to our access to libraries and parks. Both of them free to all, funded by all (of us that pay our taxes), they ask nothing of us but give us so much.
  • They’re full of books! (An obvious one perhaps, but if you were like me as a child and devoured books, libraries were a godsend. My parents couldn’t and wouldn’t buy as many books as I could read in a week so a regular Saturday trip to the library was essential. Our library was just down the road from our house, and before it opened we had a mobile library in a van come round. Where else would I have discovered so many friends? Where else could I, like every other girl in the village, read Forever by Judy Blume? (the library’s copy was so old and thumbed through that they were always trying to mend it. No sooner had they put it out the back to get busy with sellotape then someone else asked for it.) Even now, when I have shelves full of books at home, I can easily just “happen” into the library and come out with five or six books I want to read.
  • Some of them are housed in beautiful buildings – the new Birmingham library is pretty stunning outside and in, ¬†Manchester’s newly refurbished Central library is a glorious old building with a beautiful domed reading room and in Nottingham, Bromley House library is one of the hidden gems of the city. And those are just the ones I see on a vaguely regular basis. There are many more famous ones that are equally lovely. And anyone can go in them and have a look at the architecture!
  • I have some fond memories of libraries – not just my Saturday mornings, but also walking around the university library with my dad when we toured the campuses before I went off to uni. At Sussex we got lost in the silent section and got the giggles when we were glared at by someone working.

And that’s it. I know there’s all kinds of other things – the events, exhibitions, information at your fingertips, computer access and so on and so forth. But those are my reasons.

Long may they reign.

Happy National Libraries day!