For the Love of Libraries

One of my earliest memories is going to the library. I’m two, maybe three, and the library is just round the corner from my house; close enough to walk to. So every week I toddle down with a parent, around the sloping hill to the temporary box library, and I get to choose my own books.

For at least a year, the only books I choose are Thomas the Tank Engine. (I loved Thomas the Tank Engine. I used to call him Thomas the Tangy and pretend to be a train for hours and hours.) My parents used to try and get the librarian to hide the Thomas the Tank Engine books to save them from yet another rendition of Thomas and Gordon and Annie and Clarabelle, and the librarian always refused.

You see, librarians don’t censor people’s reading.

And then, when we moved to England and everything was horribly different, there was still the local library. To get to this one you had to run the gauntlet of the scary older boys hanging around outside on their BMX’s, but inside there were books. Lots of them.

For the next ten years, that local branch library was the place I visited the most. Even when I had to dodge the cool kids and hide my stack of books, it was worth it.

Because in a library you get to find other lives.

I did my work experience in that local library, then came back in the summer to help with kids doing the Summer Reading Challenge.

Fast forward another eight years, and I work on a reading project in conjunction with three county library services. This time, it’s about encouraging adults to read different books: books that they wouldn’t pick up ordinarily.

I wouldn’t be the person I am without libraries. I would be much sadder, much emptier, much more lonely.

Today it’s #NationalLibrariesDay, and we need to save Britain’s libraries. Please, go and use yours.

Here’s a longer article I wrote for The Norwich Radical about The Freedom of Libraries. 

© 2021 Rowan Whiteside