Friday, 14 October 2011

Hooray for Libraries!

Last night I was speaking at the new Patchway Library. Yes, you read that right - in an age when we hear of libraries being closed left right and centre, it's a NEW library. Hooray!

And hooray for all the librarians who run libraries, and look after the books, and the book lovers and the reading groups and everyone else, even the people who've wandered in by accident.

And hooray for all the books in all the libraries. It makes me furious when people speak of libraries as if they were luxuries. They are escape routes. Escape from lives that are boring or predictable, escape from lives that are limited and conventional, escape from lives that - for whatever reason - lack alternatives.

I escaped to other worlds where I could be someone other than a fat, bookish child. Every Saturday I pedalled to the library on the bike my father had fished out of a ditch. I had a basket on the front, and I filled that with library books every week - I had my own, children's card, and both my parents' adult cards - so I was entitled to 24 books to devour at a time.

I read and read and read. Anything, everything. My favourite children's books were about a ballerina called Drina, my favourite adult books were Westerns - I was so disappointed when I saw the film Destry Rides Again: my first experience of how the adaptation doesn't live up to the beloved book and fantasy (Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny - just the name was impossibly exotic, and you got to take something out from the Z shelf.)

Reading is the breathing in, and writing is the breathing out. If I hadn't read so much as a child, I wouldn't be a writer (this seems to be true for many - all? - writers). Without libraries I wouldn't be a writer, and you wouldn't be reading this.

So hooray for libraries, especially the lovely new one at Patchway and hooray for librarians, especially Emma and Carol who invited me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

13 comments:

Diane Fordham said...

Lovely post Sarah. Only recently I rediscovered the world of the library again, and it has brought back many memories for me...all good. :-)

Cara Cooper said...

I always used to go to the library with my father and remember walking down the road holding his hand. They had a lovely children's room with brightly coloured benches and I'd spend ages choosing my Just William books whilst he went off and chose his. Then we'd walk back chattering all the way. Looking for it when I recently went back home to Kensington that lovely cosy place is now an expensive restaurant. Thank goodness some new libraries are opening!

JO said...

So many writers have library stories.

And they are equally important to the frail or elderly. I have an old aunt, now housebound, who is visited by an outreach worker from her local library once a week, with a pile of books. Reading keeps her going. And now her library might close - she's too far away for me to visit weekly, and can't afford to buy books. She refuses to use a kindle (and why should she.)

When we defend libraries it's not only our own memories we are treasuring, but some vital services to both young and old.

Victoria said...

Great stuff, Sarah. I loathe the way some mischief-making councillors make out that in tough times, we/they have to choose between financing either libraries or care for the elderly.

As Jo indicates, libraries can be a lifeline - and not just for the old. Long may they flourish.

Tringyokel said...

A nice post and such good news. I really believe we need more libraries. They seem to me to be the only viable community centres of the future. (steps off soapbox)

I think I first read Zelazny because of the name. And Van Vogt, whose name I've never known how to pronounce.

Chrissie said...

It was a really great evening. The library provided a really warm welcome and Sarah was brilliant. Haven't enjoyed myself so much in ages.

Carey said...

"Reading is the breathing in, and writing is the breathing out."

Ooh how goosebumpy lovely is this! :o)

womagwriter said...

Lovely post! I was a big library user too and worked my way through everything by PG Wodehouse in my early teens. Now my own early teen doesn't see the point of buying books when you can borrow them for free, and I often get phone calls from the library telling me a book he's ordered is now waiting for him...

I don't use it myself much now, but that's due to being time poor and (relatively) money rich. It's easier to buy a book I fancy online rather than find time to get to the library to borrow it. When I retire I'll be a regular library visitor. If paper books still exist then, of course. Or will libraries have become virtual?

Jan Sprenger said...

Thumbs up to this post. Libraries are wonderful places. To see them close would suggest civilisation was in decline.

Like Cara, I too used to do the library visit with my dad - happy days.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thank you for all your nice comments, and thanks to all those libraries and librarians, past and present, who have given us the opportunities to read, read, read. Where would we all be without books?

Olivia Ryan said...

I so agree with your post, Sarah, and I love your comment about breathing in and breathing out. So well put.

Quite apart from all the other reasons for supporting libraries (and I do!), most mid-list authors I know depend on their PLR payments as a big proportion of their income.

And even with most of my books out of print, I still get 'fan' mail from people who have read them as library books - which means almost as much to me as the PLR!

Olivia Ryan said...

I so agree with your post, Sarah, and I love your comment about breathing in and breathing out. So well put.

Quite apart from all the other reasons for supporting libraries (and I do!), most mid-list authors I know depend on their PLR payments as a big proportion of their income.

And even with most of my books out of print, I still get 'fan' mail from people who have read them as library books - which means almost as much to me as the PLR!

Sarah Duncan said...

Ooh yes, lovely PLR. Roll on February!