My Love Letter to Libraries
What does a library mean to you? Over the last few years we have seen local authorities use austerity as a measure to force the closure of hundreds of local libraries. But what does a library actually mean to each of us?
I will be 54 in a months’ time and I have been recalling my younger days in my local library. I grew up in Wallasey which is on the Wirral. My local library was a place of learning and a place of wonder. In those days during the 1970’s we never had computers and the internet was not invented so a lot of my time was spent sat in a library researching for homework or just for reading. My local library was a very special place for me. I recall every time I entered the library the aroma of books hit you and I was hooked. When I had my very first library card it was my cherished possession. It was my key to knowledge beyond my wildest of dreams. I took books home and read by torchlight under blankets when I should have been sleeping. I took books everywhere went. I used every opportunity to read. There were times after school I had to be reminded that it was time to go home. But home was not a very welcoming place to be. My local library was my escape.
So I was from this moment I was hooked and books and reading and they have played a very important role in my life for many reasons and this library in Wallasey close to my home became more or less my second home. During these days as a boy I watched my parents literally tear themselves apart and on occasions we were moved to London. I was missing my second home that was my local library. We returned to the Wirral some months later as my parents tried to reconcile their differences and I was re-united with my library. I was such a regular the staff used to acknowledge me when I arrived. I was crazy for books and reading. It was my escape from my warring parents a place I felt secure around people I know and books became friends, as they never judged you and whenever you were going through a difficult they were there for you.
When I had to go into hospital for a major eye operation in the mid 1970’s both eyes were covered for some time. I missed the library and I missed my books and reading. Hours became days and days became weeks. It was the staff at the library who noticed my absence and contacted my parents and then for nearly each day I was in hospital and could not read they came to see me and read passages from a chosen book to me. That Library and its staff helped me through some extremely dark moments in my early formative years. Years later it helped me through my exams and it was where I used to write poems, then I was there to say goodbye when I left my hometown to seek a career in London. All these years later my love affair with books and reading is still strong and this is all because of my local library way back in the early days of the 1970’s.
We fast forward to the present and libraries are under pressure and now need our help to survive and survive they should regardless of where you live. They are a place of learning and a place for people to meet for some libraries are the hub of local communities and for the locals a chance to access information through books or now through the internet. Not every household has a computer or access to fast broadband. Take this away from communities and some people become stranded and alone. It is heart-braking to read of more local councils planning to close libraries. They seem to be the easiest of targets during council cut backs. Deprived areas need libraries and closing them is just plain pointless.
Some once said ‘A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life.’ Just imagine swathes of the country where a library is the thing of the past. This is happening right now and must we must continue to protest against the closure of libraries. They are the lifeblood of local communities from Land’s End to John O’ Groats Many a bestselling author started their love for books because of going to their local library. I fear that one day that libraries will become a thing of the past. Let us stop and think of what they mean to each and every one of us. When they are gone they are gone for good. I know of homeless people who during the cold weather will quietly read and keep warm, a place for people seeking solace in troubled personal times a place to hide. I know of people who have written a book in their local library because they could not work through illness. When you attend your local library you meet like-minded people whether they are looking for their next book or seeking out information or it could be the next bestselling author struggling to write their first book.
Yes, I still have a library card and it is still a treasured item but I just don’t want it to become a memento of times gone by. I still use my local library here in Somerset when I need to seek information or somewhere to write quietly. We must rejoice for libraries and let’s do our bit to save them for future generations to come and not allow ourselves to talk of libraries as a thing of the past. Or they will become just that. Libraries are thriving in all parts of the world so why are we closing ours in this country? This must be reversed.
All those years ago as a young boy this library was my guiding light a bright star in troubled times that showed me the way ahead. I will continue to support and fight for access to libraries for all.