I was about eight when I first joined the library. And I have used my local library ever since, wherever I’ve lived. There have been times that to buy a book was a luxury but those days are long gone, but borrowing books from the library still features large in my life. I have a list of books that I always have with me and to find one in the library still gives me a tingle of pleasure. I really like to have a stack of books at home too, waiting for me to read.
I have really fond memories of certain libraries. The large municipal one in St Helens, where my dad used to take me to get the books from my sixth form reading list, holds particularly happy ones. I recall dappled sunlight streaming through the windows there which may be a bit fanciful, but I was in such awe of the place. Later when I moved to London, the library in Shepherds Bush didn’t do much for me, but the Victorian one in Streatham – now we’re talking! I went there to pick up books to see me through the hospital stay for the birth of my first son.
Libraries have been where I have started my relationships with Margaret Atwood, James Joyce, Aldous Huxley, Jane Gardam, Alison Lurie, John Updike, Susan Hill, John Fowles, Ursula K Le Guin, Armistead Maupin, Hanif Kureishi and so many more.
I am sure that part of the lure of libraries – apart from access to all those books – is the peace and calm. Because no matter where the library or how large or grand, there will always be calm, quiet and a sense of order. Libraries are great these days for providing exciting and vibrant events – especially for children – but, at source, places of peace are what they remain.
So as we all charge around, constantly linked to the rest of the world through our mobile phones, remember your library. Call in and acquaint, or reacquaint, yourself. Even better – go with a child and have a look at the library through their eyes. You may very well be amazed at who you’ll meet there.