Today is National Libraries Day 2013, which naturally got me to thinking of libraries I have loved and lost. It won’t come as any surprise, I suppose, that I wouldn’t be the person I am if it were not for libraries.
Primary School – the in-house library at primary school introduced me to Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and began a fixation with WW2 tales. I was fascinated by stories set against the backdrop of the war, and still am to an extent – possibly because I heard about it from two grandparents that lived through it. If that’s your thang too, why not try When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, and Maus by Art Spiegelman.
Local Library – I used to go to the local council-run library every Saturday morning with my dad and my sister. It gave me all the disposable one read books I could ask for: Nancy Drew, Malory Towers, Sweet Valley, Babysitters Club and Point Horror, before I hit puberty and moved onto books for adults. I read better stories too, mind you – by the likes of Judy Blume, Tove Jansson, Anne Fine and so many more.
High School – the library where I studied for my Higher in History whilst everyone else in the year did Admin or Maths, took part in a paired reading project with a hilarious kid who teachers warned might kick my face off at any moment but was always fine with me, and found sanctuary when I needed it. I associate it less with reading than with safety, although I know I borrowed books there!
University Library – hours of mustard carpets, stuffing myself into a booth and reading because I was interested, not because it had anything to do with my essay. Once, when theoretically researching an essay for a module on Imperial Russia, I found myself immersed in the tale of Red Clydeside – there again they do advise you to read around a subject… I associate that library with night time walks to visit Short Loan at the last possible moment (if you went before it closed you got the books all night instead of for three hours). I remember walking along the beach path in darkness with Idlewild in my ears and the sea at my side, stars shining brighter than they do over the city where I now live, and feeling happy.
First job after graduating library – a place where I could use my work with a young reading group as an excuse to catch up on all the children’s fiction I’d been missing (nine year old me would have loved The Edge Chronicles, and adult me loves the magic of Steve Augarde‘s Various trilogy, the future dystopian world of Gemma Malley, the silliness of Andy Stanton, the cleverness of Trenton Lee Stewart). It also helped me address gaps in my graphic novel reading (I had not read Sandman until I got that job), and reaffirmed my belief that a good story and characters are just as important to my reading experience as beautiful prose. It was also a colleague in that job who first told me about NaNoWriMo, and without that nugget of information 12 Books in 12 Months might never have been born.
So thank you, libraries. I hope you have a wonderful day.