The joy of libraries

It’s National Libraries Day! Here are some reasons I love them:

  • They’re one of the last places you can spend time where you aren’t being sold something. Every time I read an article talking about how libraries can diversify their income in tough times by putting in a coffee shop a small part of me dies. If I want coffee I’ll go to a coffee shop. In these commercialised times, where everything is judged by its monetary value, I believe our wellbeing as a nation comes down to our access to libraries and parks. Both of them free to all, funded by all (of us that pay our taxes), they ask nothing of us but give us so much.
  • They’re full of books! (An obvious one perhaps, but if you were like me as a child and devoured books, libraries were a godsend. My parents couldn’t and wouldn’t buy as many books as I could read in a week so a regular Saturday trip to the library was essential. Our library was just down the road from our house, and before it opened we had a mobile library in a van come round. Where else would I have discovered so many friends? Where else could I, like every other girl in the village, read Forever by Judy Blume? (the library’s copy was so old and thumbed through that they were always trying to mend it. No sooner had they put it out the back to get busy with sellotape then someone else asked for it.) Even now, when I have shelves full of books at home, I can easily just “happen” into the library and come out with five or six books I want to read.
  • Some of them are housed in beautiful buildings – the new Birmingham library is pretty stunning outside and in, ¬†Manchester’s newly refurbished Central library is a glorious old building with a beautiful domed reading room and in Nottingham, Bromley House library is one of the hidden gems of the city. And those are just the ones I see on a vaguely regular basis. There are many more famous ones that are equally lovely. And anyone can go in them and have a look at the architecture!
  • I have some fond memories of libraries – not just my Saturday mornings, but also walking around the university library with my dad when we toured the campuses before I went off to uni. At Sussex we got lost in the silent section and got the giggles when we were glared at by someone working.

And that’s it. I know there’s all kinds of other things – the events, exhibitions, information at your fingertips, computer access and so on and so forth. But those are my reasons.

Long may they reign.

Happy National Libraries day!

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