I LOVE libraries, I love them, I always have. I remember going to the local library on the bus when I was a child, I would be so excited. My local library was Poole library and it was upstairs, it was always sunny when we went; the library smelt of warm lino and dust – it felt like home. The children’s library had low wooden boxes full of children’s picture books and I would flip through them with the same interest and joy as a vinyl lover in a record shop. I could choose 4 books, we take them to the counter, exchange them for our cardboard tickets, and the librarian would stamp the books with the date we needed to bring them back. I remember thinking that job looked quite fun.
William Sieghart has said that libraries are a golden thread that run through our lives – this is especially true for me. There has never been a time when I’ve not gone to a library of some description. I went throughout childhood, when I was a teenager I read through all of the Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume books and these led me to more teen fiction. The library was on the way home from school so I would go with my friends and we’d read the teenage magazines together – going straight to More and the position of the fortnight! I would visit my school library too, I remember when the school library got Encarta on CD rom and the librarian was so excited – a whole encyclopedia on a disk! I wasn’t so excited – I thought I’d still look up things in the real books! Always the bibliophile!
When I went to university and studied English Literature I would go to the library to study (maybe not quite as much as I should have though!) When I left university I started work at Shakespeare’s Globe and had a brilliant time, it was the best job ever, and I made friends for life there. After a couple of years I realised I needed to think about a career – I’d always thought about being a librarian, but it wasn’t the coolest job in the world. I realised I was being an idiot, and this was really what I wanted to do. So I looked into it – got some experience in the small library at the Globe, then did a year graduate traineeship at Kew Gardens Library – got onto the part time Library and Information Studies at University College London whilst working part time at Kew Gardens Library and also the Zoological Society of London library (London Zoo!). When I’d finished that I got my first professional job at the British Library, I was so happy! The BL is an amazing place to work, and I’ve had some unbelievable experiences here. I’m now working on the culture side and doing a lot of work with public libraries. I have been blown away by the passion and enthusiasm of public librarians whilst I’ve been doing this. They are true heroes working and providing the best service they can with diminishing resources. Public libraries are so important for all communities, they are a safe space for all where your money is not needed. How many places like that do we have? Support your local libraries, become a member, take your children, it’s not just about books. Libraries provide book groups, craft sessions, baby rhyme time, access to the internet – so much! Check it out!