I can’t remember the first time I went to a library; much in the same way that I can’t remember learning to read. However, both experiences have had a profound impact on the development of the person I have become.
My memories of the library I attended as a child are hazy. I went there so many times that all of them seem to blend into one. I remember the blue green lino that was permanently shiny and the tall bookshelves that housed centuries of stories. My mum went to the same library as a child and the floor was not upgraded in all the time that she or I went there. The shelves were a rich dark oak and I would spend hours upon hours perusing the shelves looking for that perfect find. It was in this library that I travelled to Amsterdam and hid in an attic with Anne Frank; I became friends with the Wakefield twins and I joined a club of babysitters. All this magic encased in a little yellow card.
The day I reached 12 and I was finally allowed to borrow books from the adult section of the library was like having the door to a whole new world opened to me. More than that I now was able to borrow 12 books instead of 6. This made me very happy.
When I started high school I was amazed to find that students could work in the school library. I made sure that I got the chance to do so. When I was told by English teacher, Head Librarian and now – more importantly – friend Shirley Donnelly that I had been selected to be a trainee librarian I was over the moon. I was fascinated by the order that books went on the shelves, the precision it took to back the books and also cataloguing them on the system. Yes, it may sound a little geeky but I was happy being where the books lived; I was home.
I have visited several libraries across my hometown of Liverpool and when I was on a recent trip to London with my boyfriend he took me to the British Library because he knew how absolutely in awe I would be of the capitals house of books; how enamoured I am by the written word. And whilst some of the libraries I have been to have blown me away – especially Liverpool Library for its absolutely gorgeous architecture and amazing Picton Reading Room – there is something special about my first library – Litherland Library.
Litherland Library unfortunately closed down a few years ago. Due to council cuts the libraries were seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. To me a library is more than just a place to borrow books; it is a social hub. It is a place where mums can go and take their children to get them excited about reading; it is a place for the elderly to socialise; for the retired person who no longer has the social aspect of a job anymore – it is a place to make friends. It is a place for those who don’t have access to computers to update their CV’s, apply for jobs, to keep in touch with friends across the globe. In my opinion, a library is central to any community.
When I think of my library memories I see a little girl with long red pigtails sitting on blue green linoleum whose world has just fallen away as she starts to read the book before she has even had it issued to her and has already fallen in love with words on a page.
This is why I love libraries.