In Praise of Libraries


A much valued free resource.

I was asked to give an author talk at my local library last week. It was great fun. The librarians gave the talk loads of publicity and managed to pack out the small hall where the talk took place. As I was planning what to say, I started thinking about the library I went to as a child. Like most writers, I read voraciously from an early age, and in pre-digital times, libraries were a treasure trove of delights. My parents took me to our local library each week and I couldn’t wait to peruse the shelves for my next array of rich pickings. There was something about the smell of library books, that fascinating first page where you could see how many other people had read your book, and imagine other hands holding the pages, other eyes devouring the words, that lingers in the memory. I remember volunteering as a library helper in the summer holidays, and relishing the experience of spending my days sorting and categorising books.

A recent trawl through worldcat, the international library website, revealed ‘The Oceans Between Us’ is now in libraries as far away as Australia and New Zealand. If I could tell my library-obsessed young self that my book would one day sit on library shelves, I would have been amazed. But if I hadn’t read books I wouldn’t have become a writer and if I hadn’t had such a welcoming local library with its inspiring librarians I wouldn’t have become a reader.

Libraries are under threat in the UK and I think it’s sad that such a wonderful resource is not valued as it should be. My young granddaughter did the library challenge this summer and it was great to see her enthusiasm for the books she read. Perhaps the younger generation will rekindle a love of libraries that seems to be so sadly missing.

I certainly hope so.