There seems to be a ‘National Day’ for virtually everything nowadays as organisations and other concerns vie for our attention and highlight the importance of whatever the subject may be.
None more so than National Libraries Day because they are the victim of technology combined with people’s indifference, and whilst there is nothing we can do to halt the progress of technology, as much of the population turn to eBooks, I think it is a shame that the weekly trip to the library by families and children is at best seen as a chore or worse, not even thought about.
So I thought I would share my memories of libraries, librarians and books.
We lived in Broadstone near Poole in Dorset for just over four years, which was the longest we stayed in any one place throughout my childhood, and the local library was just a short walk away. I think the building must have been a very grand town house in a former life as it was nothing like the purpose built libraries we have now, and whilst I cannot remember the entrance, I do remember the room that was full of books.
It was like walking into your favourite aunt or uncle’s front room, a huge room with row upon row of shelves all neatly stocked with books or every description. There were no desks or places for people to sit and drink coffee, it was a place for books and nothing else. Although I do recall there being some small chairs and possibly a bean bag in the children’s section that was situated near a beautiful bay window.
It was always a treat to go down there, especially on my own, to choose a book that I would covet for the permitted two weeks. I remember the desk in the middle behind which a middle aged lady, her hair pulled back in a tight bun, stood looking at me with piercing eyes peering through her batwing glasses that were so fashionable in the 70s, perhaps weighing me up to see if I was permitted to borrow the book. The responsibility of handing over my cardboard library ticket and seeing the date stamped inside the front cover of the book along with the little insert they tucked inside a tight flap (I’m still not sure what that was for!)
We enjoyed the whole process so much my sisters and I, that we set up our own library in our bedroom, turning the kidney shaped dressing table round so whoever played the role of the librarian could be in charge, opening drawers and shuffling bits of paper, whilst the borrowers queued up on the other side. We placed a selection of our favourite books on top of the dressing table so the person could make their choice.
We made our own version of the little flap and wrote dates on slips of paper, only then handing the book over to the sister or friend or whoever else might be visiting our library that day.
I still have a book with our makeshift borrowing apparatus.
When we moved from Broadstone to a remote village in Somerset called Stawell, we changed our allegiance to the library bus that visited once a week.
This was a whole new adventure as we clambered on board to see what they had selected for our delectation and delight.
Sadly we only stayed in this village for 18 months and after this I cannot recall any particular library we enjoyed, our nomadic life having taken its toll on my staying power.
But I will always remember with great fondness the trip to the big house and the lady with batwing glasses and piercing eyes, I just hope libraries will continue to hold a special place in the heart of the next generation.