Some of my happiest days have been spent at my local library. I loved going there when I was younger, and I'd lose my mind every time they ordered in new books. To me, there was nothing better than a shelf of new and glorious tomes that I could explore at my leisure. Fifteen books was the limit, so every week I'd take out as many as I could and a week or two later I'd bring them back, read and enjoyed. It got to a point where I'd pretty much exhausted the children's and YA section and I ended up re-reading a lot of their stock. I was basically Matilda.
Back then, all of the librarians knew my name. Some of them even watched me grow up from a baby, to a happy eight-year-old, to a thirteen-year-old who thought she was cool, and no matter what happened I always participated in the annual reading challenge. I got older and my tastes changed but the reading challenge was a constant. To some people this might seem geeky, but in a library, no one cares. That's one of the amazing things about it - everyone is the same.
Admittedly, I no longer use my library. I'm privileged in that I get so many review books sent to me that I don't really need to use it, although I have been thinking about renewing my membership.
Some do need it, though. For some people, a library is synonymous with a lifeline. We're not all there because we're Matilda - some people rely on libraries to be able to complete homework, apply for jobs, or simply for company and shelter. Because, hey, not everyone has a computer, access to internet, or even food and a roof over their head. It's a huge disappointment, then, that Public Libraries News estimates nearly 500 libraries have closed since April 2013. Since 2009, there have been over 1,000, which is about a quarter of the UK's libraries. According to them, libraries are irrelevant (although, funnily enough, more people used libraries in 2015 than voted for Cameron in last year's election...)
It's not just local libraries that are great, either. I loved the little library we had in primary school, and I still remember some of the books I devoured through it, most of them being pink, sparkly and about ponies. Those were the days.
At secondary school, the library was even better, just with less ponies. Shelves upon shelves proudly presented the latest YA books as well as interesting non-fiction titles. I first realised I wanted to work in publishing when I found a book about how to get into the industry. Which I forgot to return when I left. I realise this makes me a bad candidate for a future publish-y person. *hides*
Essentially, libraries gave me the space to be myself. Here's what you wonderful people said when I asked why you love libraries:
@MileLongBookS having access to a library from a young age opened my mind and the doors to beautiful new worlds. 📖— Grace. (@GracieActually) 4 April 2016
@MileLongBookS I loved the library at uni, too. The atmosphere made me want to study, and write, and work hard. 👌🏼— Grace. (@GracieActually) 4 April 2016
@MileLongBookS I walk to the local library in Dudley and read up on IT and Network essentials after school; I learnt so much! :)— DJ BRO (@DJBR0) 4 April 2016
@MileLongBookS I use the library to read graphic novels because they are expensive and such fast reads— Nat Cuddy (@picklepickle87) 4 April 2016
@MileLongBookS I used to take weekly trips with my family, I feel like the books i read helped shape me as a person— Lou (@BookishTribute) 4 April 2016
@MileLongBookS my fav memories are of my mom letting us loose to pick our own books for hours on end. I am drawn back by the smell of books— Katie Roper (@knroper) 4 April 2016
@MileLongBookS libraries gave me access to books when we couldn't afford to buy a lot of them.— Katie Roper (@knroper) 4 April 2016
@MileLongBookS @GracieActually took my 7yr cousin there last week, she was memorised & read books to me rather than playing on ipad at lunch— Sarah_McC (@Sarahh_JaneMcC) 4 April 2016
@MileLongBookS When I was ten, I walked my dog to the village library. It was so small, they let her in with me, and we browsed together.— Sarah-Jane (@booklifeSJ) 4 April 2016
I especially love that last one! It's amazing how much of an impact libraries have on people's lives, and yet they're still being closed all over the nation. It's sad, because if I hadn't had access to a library when I was younger, I'm not sure I'd be book blogging today.
I remember getting a new library card and proudly signing my name on the back to confirm my ownership.
I remember trudging home across town, having to peer over the stack of hardbacks in my arms because I'd forgotten to bring a bag.
I remember when I was in with a 'bad crowd' just before starting high school and hanging out at the library because it was central to all of us. If the library hadn't been there, I don't like to think what we might have got up to. Ah, peer pressure. (I ditched these people after a few months, it's all good.)
I remember a year or so later when me and a (better) friend went to the library after school so she could help with my MyMaths homework (who remembers that?) and I could help her with English. Loads of people we knew from our school from all different cliques were in there, because libraries bring people together whether they notice it or not. A librarian came in with a box full of brownies that she'd baked in preparation for GBBO and gave some to every person in the library, whether she knew us or not. It was nice.
But my favourite thing of all? In a world where we're bombarded with advertisements 24/7, a library is the only place that isn't trying to sell you anything. A library is the only place you can go where you will be accepted. A library is the only place where you can access internet, books, DVDs, games, shelter and community for free.
Where I live, we don't have a bookshop, but we do have a library. If the library closes, my town won't have any connection to literature at all, and thousands of children will miss out on the experience I and so many others have had. So many potential bookworms, lost. Books are expensive when you can barely afford to feed yourself.
I might not be using it at the moment, but I love my local library.
Why are libraries important to you?