Friday, February 4, 2011

Save our libraries no 2.

My life is made from words. For years I have worked as an illustrator. Recently I began to write. I also read.
When I was young we did not have books in my house. Well, maybe one or two. Every week we would go to the library and choose maybe 3 or 4 books to take home. I was slow to learn to read and would often take out picture books.
I loved the silent hushed shelves where the books would whisper to me and it often seemed that certain books would push themselves out to be noticed. They all held doorways to other worlds.
I would gather up my new friends, carry them carefully to the counter and reach up high for the lady to stamp them. Books seemed bigger then, but maybe I was smaller.
I loved to see how long they had been sleeping on the shelves, waiting for me to come and breathe life into them, waken them by reading. I would wonder about who last had held each book, what they had thought of it. And then, after a week or two I would take it back and choose again. A dance of books.
And one book I would always choose more than others. The Jungle book, with coloured plates, hard backed, heavy paged. I can still smell it now, just thinking of it.

Without libraries I would not have had access to a world of books. I would not have been able to feed the hunger for stories that made me learn to read. My life would not be made of words now, and my future would have been very different.

To join in the protest and in praise of libraries please send your thoughts to


  1. I think our whole generation of writers had that kind of relationship with libraries. We'd get one book (one!) for a birthday or Christmas, but it wasn't like today, where everyone goes on line to amazon. The function of libraries has changed a lot, but they're no less important to so many people....

  2. When I was 6, or 7...a big yellow cloth covered book, the dust cover long gone. Every time I went to the library with my mum, I asked her to find it for me. Full of greek I learned of Poseidon, Aphrodite, Zeus. Here they crawled into my subconscious, and they have lived there ever since.
    When I was 13 or 14...the Faeries book by Alan Lee and Brian Froud. Shown to me by a favourite teacher. You had to put in a request for it, as it was so popular it was almost always out on loan. Still one of my favourite books. 30 years later I still remember the excitement of finding it IN, in the shelves, like a treasure map to another world, and taking it home where it would be mine for 2 whole weeks.

    I don't know if my comments would be helpful for the protest, being all the way over here in Australia, but I'm willing to send them on if you think they might be.

  3. I think that one of the things in the library debate that is missing is also a celebration of librarians. A good one is like the most wonderful gate keeper. A good one knows the pathways through the forest and can guide both children and adults. I have met many.
    A bad one is like the three headed dog at the gates of Hell, who keeps her charges safe from the grubby hands of human contact.
    I have met both, but fortunately more of the first.
    They cannot be replaced by computer programs and volunteers.

  4. Please do send, whether from Australia, America or an island in the middle of the ocean.
    It's not just this government that is doing the damage here, it is successive ones. And I know that libraries need to change and have been changing, fast.
    In Wales we still have new ones opening, but the schools library service is folding in on itself.
    I was lucky. My parents took me to the library. Well, my mum actually. But some children only get access to books through school, only get drawn into the larger world of library through the school library services.
    Some time ago when schools were given more autonomy over their budgets they were allowed to 'opt in ' to the school library service. This was a central hub of information, books, tapes, resources. They ran workshops and brought in authors.
    In Pembrokeshire this service is ending, so quietly in amidst the hubbub of selling off forests and larger library closures.
    I wonder how many children will be disempowered by this simple act of vandalism.

  5. I've always loved libraries. I rarely buy books, may be because I cannot afford and I don't like to use my parents money. Not that they can afford all the books I want to read bought J.R.R. Tolkiean's Children of Hurin and had to sacrifice a month's worth of T-shirts for that!

    I don't know where I'd be today without libraries. I mean I won't even be able to tell you this because I wouldn't know how to write
    or speak or understand English without libraries and the books from them.
    When I was very little I loved week ends for 2 reasons. I get to go for badminton practices and the public library every week end.
    And there is no other experience to match the happiness in accidentally finding a book I have been searching for ages in a shelf of a book rack in the far corner of the library or the experience of searching for books from one end of the library to the other for a certain book and coming out with it covered with dust from head to foot.

    I myself use e books and all. But a borrowing a book from the library is a way different thing than just reading a book and getting the idea in it. Library books have characters of their own which you cannot find in books you buy from shops.

    One of my principal's at school once said that books were the best way to learn many things. Read each and every book you get,decide good or bad later.Unless you know bad how do you separate good from it and wise versa.

    Well you can't do that if there were no libraries can you?

    All the way from Sri Lanka :D

  6. That's wonderful. I hope you are sending all these through to Sheffield.

  7. There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration. ~Andrew Carnegie

    The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas - a place where history comes to life. ~Norman Cousins
    How sad that it has come to this, my sanity has been saved by libraries at various times in my life. From very penniless student to young mother with demanding bright toddlers - somewhere to go to find peace, stimulation, companionship, knowledge, inspiration always coming away feeling better for the visit. That was a wonderful piece Jackie, thanks.June

  8. Thank you, June. Have copied the first quote to my facebook page.

  9. Have sent it on to the Central Lending Library. One small drop...but many drops make an ocean.

  10. Oh how I like your collective noun, 'A dance of books' !!

    When I was able to work I was a Library Assistant for a University and everyday when I got into work before the Library opened I would walk to my Library shelves and feel as though the books reached out and wrapped their 'arms' around me!

    Library's are essential!!

    Hugs Jane

  11. A most eloquent paen to books! I think it's a crime to deprive people access to books by closing libraries. They do the same thing here in the U.S. Whenever there are budget cuts, the first things to go are teachers, school funds, and library closures.
    I've always viewed books as talismans against ignorance and darkness; perhaps that's why I have so many all over my house!

  12. I agree with Urban Wild about budget cuts here in the US -- I live in California and whenever there is a budget crunch of some sort -- libraries are one of the first to go. I strongly believe that most politicians have never step inside a library -- for when you do, the experience becomes magical. Perhaps that is the real reason why politicians are afraid of libraries.

    Some one once told me that books are very dangerous -- they make you think, make you question, they show you a world brimming with cultures, beliefs and peoples outside of your own private life, and by taking that first step your life can be changed forever.

    A long time ago, when I thought I could be a teacher, I had one of my classes do an assignment on current "media" trends. The students picked topics such as radio, newspapers, magazines and television (at the time the electronic age was only a Science Fiction fantasy). I also did a presentation and my media of choice was Books. After the last report was given (which was mine) a student stopped by my desk and said "I don't get it -- books ?? People don't reads books anymore".

    It took me some time to make the decision to a life committed to books and libraries. I changed professions and now have the privilege to work in a University library.

    Although both my parents are gone, their greatest gift to me was passing on their love of books and reading to me. Unknowing at the time, I see now that it was an everlasting gift of love.

  13. Thank you so much for all of these hymnes in praise of books and libraries.
    Always good to hear such positive things. I think that maybe books are a catalyst for ideas. And so is the web, but it is sometimes hard to navigate. A good librarian can help navigate around a library, but will also hang back so that you can chart the waters yourself.
    Next week I am off to Norfolk for teh Norfolk Childrens Book Award that is sponsored by the council and the libraries. By the time I will get there the libraries will know if they have the support and backing of their council. Sadly they no longer have a specialist children's librarian in the county. A big loss, to the children but also the libraries as they will need to work hard to keep people in the 'library habit' when facing budget cuts, closures and limitted opening hours.
    I am looking forward to going, and also to visiting the norfolk Centre for the Children's book.