As a child, a visit to the library was the highlight of my week. It would usually be on a Wednesday and I would race home from school, grab my pile of books and skip the five minutes to the small town library.
During that hour, in the safe haven of paperback friends, I didn’t have to worry about the kids in school who picked on me for being a ‘swot’. I didn’t have to listen to the sniggering whispers of ‘teacher’s pet’ behind my back. I didn’t have to blush in shame for putting my hand up in class because I knew the answer.
I could pick up a book and disappear inside its pages. I didn’t have to be me. I could be a pirate, a princess, a witch or a wizard. I could travel back in time or to distant lands – real and imaginary. I could befriend pigs and dogs and a man made out of scrap iron. I could climb trees and disappear behind waterfalls.
I could dream.
I was expected home by five o’clock therefore at 4.55pm, I’d pick up my new selection, balance them precariously in my arms and totter home.
Whilst we weren’t a poor family, money was tight and with two brothers and a sister, my parents had to limit what we could do. I never had piano or swimming lessons. I never had ballet or modern dance classes. I was never allowed to buy a new book from the Book Club magazine sent home from school. But the library was a certainty. I didn’t have to worry about not being allowed to go. A library doesn’t judge you. It welcomes you with open arms and embraces you in its warmth.
Our next door neighbour was an elderly lady who would occasionally wait for me by her garden gate and ask me to return her books to the library for 50p and a packet of Jammie Dodgers. I would have done it every day for nothing.
It saddens me that that magical place which let me escape for one hour every week no longer exists in the small town where I grew up. Why? Why close the door on a child’s dreams?
A library is so much more than four walls and military-lined books. A library is a place to nurture a child’s imagination. A library is a haven for magical adventures, a place to escape.
Were it not for that small library of my childhood which gave me access to all those magical dreams, I doubt I’d be sitting here today, brimming with excitement that my debut book for children will be publishing this Autumn. To think that a child who feels like I once did might pick up my book and dream my dreams … well, I can’t put it into words. So let that child, let every child have a world of imagination, a world of dreams … let every child have a library.