Next Saturday 7 Feb is National Libraries Day. Events are taking place in libraries all over the UK throughout the week leading up to it, and everyone is asked to share their love for libraries on social media under this hashtag: #NLD15. I’m doing my bit as an author Ambassador, and so I thought this was a good time to write my own love letter to libraries and share it with all of you. It would be fab if you could share your own library love stories in the comments as well!
When I was a little girl we couldn’t afford to buy very many children’s books. We had some from my mum and dad’s own childhoods, but mainly they were things to be saved up for with birthday or Christmas money, and a visit to the bookshop was a rare treat. My parents had a problem, though. They had a little girl who was a bookworm, a lonely only child from a tiny village whose friends mostly lay between two cardboard covers. How were they to keep up with my addiction?
Well, they took me to you, dear library, of course, sometimes two or three times a week. You were in Basingstoke, in the new shopping centre, all angled grey concrete ramps and unexpected gusts of wind round corners. I remember you had had tall ceilings and orange seats and shelves and shelves of my favourite medicine for loneliness – books. Within your walls I discovered everything from Orlando the Marmalade Cat (and how a ‘blue bag’ was good for wasp stings), to endless versions of Greek myth and Arthurian legend. I ran the rooftops with Carbonel, shuddered under the covers as Selina Place and her morthbrood gave chase, cheered as Merlin defeated Madam Mim. You were my own personal treasure-house, and the book friends I made there shaped me into the writer I am today. Later in life, I lurked in other libraries from London to Edinburgh, with a passing bow to the magnificent lion-guarded one in New York, but you were my first love, Basingstoke Library, and therefore extra-special.
You libraries are, quite simply, a lifeline. You provide information, knowledge, yes – all those important things which we need both as children and adults. But for me, looking at libraries now from a writer’s perspective, above all, you provide today’s children with doors to other worlds, other experiences, you help them to walk in other shoes, to understand what it might be like to be someone else. You also help them to know that they are not alone – you provide the comfort that whatever they are going through, there is someone out there who has been there before, someone who can lead them through to the other side, purely through the power of a damned good story.
I’ve walked through many library doors as an author now. It’s always a privilege to meet the librarians who are your heart and soul, matching young readers of all sorts with the books they didn’t even know they needed. I’ve fought for you, marched for you, written angry letters about your survival to politicians of all parties. I will always stand up for you and defend you against anyone who says you have no place in the modern world of the internet, and that books and reading are not as important as computer suites. I will, in the words of the great Dolly Parton, always love you, and I can never, ever repay the debt I owe you for feeding that lonely child’s book hunger when she really needed it. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.
So … a big, fat, star-sparkling, cheering-to-the-moon (and back) thank you is the very least I can say. I ❤ libraries FOREVER!
Lucy Coats xxx
Do join in with NLD if you can this week – libraries and skilled librarians are too important to lose! They need all the support and love we can give them, so please do shout loudly about how brilliant they are!
Out now from Piccadilly Press UK & Grosset and Dunlap USA: Beast Keeper and Hound of Hades (Beasts of Olympus)
“rippingly funny…offers food for thought on everything from absentee parenting to the mistreatment of animals (even immortal ones).” Publishers Weekly US starred review
Coming in May 2015 from Orchard, Cleo (UKYA paranormal/historical novel about the teenage Cleopatra VII)