February 6th is National Libraries Day, a time to celebrate the service as well as a call for action to protect libraries at a time when so many are being closed or their resources slashed. I love this quote from Isaac Asimov, ‘Congratulations on the new library, because it isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you – and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.’
Writers are born in libraries. I certainly was. For me a love of reading goes hand-in-hand with the desire to write. I grew up in a house where we all went to the public library and returned home with piles of books to devour before next month’s visit. Beginning in the children’s section, I graduated to adult fiction, reading my way round the shelves, trying anything that captured my interest. The pleasure and excitement of stories, being in other worlds, seeing things through the eyes of different characters and sharing their emotions is what I get from reading and what I’m hoping to create when I write.
Libraries are one of the few free, public, local, cultural spaces that we all share. True community venues. As Lady Bird Johnson put it, ‘Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.’ For that reason alone they are precious, they bind us together. They enable any of us to become readers, perhaps to become writers. Beyond books they offer advice and information, internet access, meeting spaces, research opportunities, newspapers, bus timetables, talks and lectures, exhibitions and publicity for local events. They host community groups and councillors surgeries, homework clubs and storytelling sessions. Free to use, accessible and open to all ages they really are invaluable and if they didn’t exist we’d have to invent them. To see them under sustained attack is heart-breaking. My local library is still open (pictured here) and I’ve never lost the habit of borrowing books. I can only hope that the same provision will be there for my children and for theirs. As Neil Armstrong said, ‘How we use the knowledge we gain determines our progress on earth, in space or on the moon. Your library is a storehouse for mind and spirit. Use it well.’
If you’ve not got your library card yet, please sign up, browse those shelves and borrow a book or few and show your support.