My life has been punctuated by libraries.
The little local high street library that was huge, it’s corridors endless as a castle when I was small. Nooks behind shelves, my hand in my Nan’s hand, my mum’s hand, my dad’s hand, and eventually alone. It was so much smaller when I visited recently, no bigger than a coffee shop, but it was no less large in my mind.
Quinton library, a place of chess tournaments, bean-bags, Asterix addictions, graduating to Point-horror and Nancy drew, of jumble sales - tables full of mismatched glasses, of sponge cake with thick butter icing, of hiding in the loos after dancing like an idiot at my friend Louise’s party (to try to impress a boy at age eight), and of my nan. My nan. She was in every page, in every corridor, after she died, just beyond the wall. It was the first place I visited when I moved home, to re-register.
The beautiful but brutalist upside-down pyramid of Birmingham Central library.
I could get lost for hours, my nose in books, renting CDs. Inside was a haven to retreat to while staying at home between University terms. At the top of a tiny iron spiral stair case, the top floor, an antique room, was a sky-lit room full of names. There, I discovered ghosts. Family names lost through time, penciled in ledgers, printed on microfiche. I found their one-room-five-people home drawn, small and unassuming on ancient maps that were laced with the perfume of the insides of drawers.
In Bath, the great Uni library, a place where I forever carried the scent of printer-ink on my fingers. Home. Late night snacks. It’s where I learned of the towers coming down.
At school too, between lessons, my best friend and I, and our amazing librarians (among them the phenomenal Mrs Maloney), talking endlessly about Nokia 3210s, Tigger obsessions, playing games, writing about books, reading books and falling in love with ‘The Colour Purple’.
So many more, since, but less now I have to admit. The adventure of the internet, its lure, the businesses of life means that I escape to my library less and less. There’s another way into the universe now, a quicker way, a way I have helped to build. But it doesn’t mean the old doors are closed.
I just joined my local library, in my new home, a place I hope to raise my children, where I can plop them on bean bags, put a book in their hands (possibly Asterix) and teach them to get lost in a world while never moving an inch and without spending a penny.
Thank you to all my libraries and librarians. You made me who I am.
Libraries Week is the annual showcase of all the creative, innovative and diverse activities that UK libraries have to offer.
Libraries Week is a chance to discover the range of things you can do at your library, from play and learning for children, to managing your health, to accessing wifi and games, to finding a job, a hobby or starting a business. It’s not just public libraries – libraries of all kinds in schools, workplaces and universities have amazing services that will be on show during Libraries Week.
The campaign is led by CILIP and supported by a UK network of libraries, partners and supporters.