Why are libraries essential?

The Society of Authors has asked authors if they would offer their support and get behind CILIPS in supporting their campaign to save our libraries. 

The children’s author within me became rattled that this question even had to be asked and, before I knew it, my fingers were rattling off the keyboard. My memories as a young child combined with my experiences as an author meant that I reached their five hundred word limit rather quickly but, hopefully, through the power of words, my message can be added to others and the value of our libraries and the dedicated librarians within them can be heard.

In any case, I thought I’d share my thoughts with you here, and below is my contribution to the #LibrariesAreEssential campaign…

The question, why do I think libraries are essential, took me, unexpectedly, on a journey back to my own childhood.

I suddenly found my inner child gripping the counter while my tiptoes gave me just enough height to watch as the librarian prepared to stamp my library card. The thud that inevitably followed was the final confirmation that my choice in books was indeed coming home with me. I would clutch the temporary additions to our family firmly in my arms and watch as the librarian busied herself between stamping my grandmother’s choices and the tower of drawers behind her. The imposing wooden structure held the world within it. The cogs of the library wheel turned with every drawer that was opened and every card that was stamped.

I remembered the people we would meet and the chatter that would ensue around our newly selected books. And as I reminisced, I was hit with the overwhelming feeling that even although times have changed and the world has moved on, our need for libraries has most certainly not gone. Although we now independently scan our library cards and books, librarians are on the library floor, eager to help, talk books, and help you discover new authors, new worlds, and new interests.

And, although the memories from my childhood reinforce the need for our libraries, it is my career as an author that has opened my eyes fully to what our libraries and dedicated librarians do for their communities.

Librarians work hard with local schools and organisations and I have enjoyed many great events in libraries throughout Scotland where local primary school children have come to not only hear my stories and chat about their reading and writing but also, as part of their school visit, choose a book to borrow. I’ve watched as the children instinctively go to their preferred section and I’ve been inspired by their willingness to search for new worlds and new characters.

But given that now more than ever, parents and carers are working, and time is often a luxury, it is thanks to our librarians and the tireless work they do to build relationships with their local primary schools, that has given many children the opportunity to benefit from our libraries. They organise and hold author events; they unite the literary world, and they open doors for many children that may not otherwise be given the opportunity. Reading is an essential building block in a child’s learning. It feeds their imaginations and their creativity, and by default improves their own writing and storytelling skills.

Our children are our future! Every single one of them! And thanks to our passionate and dedicated librarians they grow into adulthood feeling welcomed in our library system. And, as their autumn years will inevitably approach, libraries will still be there, offering a source of comfort, friendship, and familiarity as they welcome them to author and community events.

Please do not underestimate the power of our libraries and their dedicated librarians.