Book news and events

Love letters to libraries

Children’s authors Chris Riddell and Jacqueline Wilson are amongst the names of people who have written love letters to their favourite libraries as part of Book Week Scotland. The project is designed to raise awareness of the role that libraries play in people’s lives, which is particularly pertinent in a period which has seen the closure of many UK libraries. According to the website Public Libraries News, between March 2013-March 2014, 491 libraries (411 buildings and 80 mobiles) have been reported as either likely to be closed or passed to volunteers – or have either closed or left council control. There is some good news though, protests and a love letter sent from 500 artists, actors, musicians, educators and illustrators saved 11 libraries from closure in Liverpool this week.

In true Chris Riddell style, his contribution is a series of illustrations featuring himself and memorable librarians, whilst Jacqueline Wilson pays tribute to a place she spent a lot of time as a child, Kingston Library in London.

Read Jacqueline Wilson’s letter here

Read Chris Riddell’s letter here

The Guardian has invited readers to contribute and  their love letters to libraries are worth a read. What about you? Is there a particular library or librarian who made an impact on you? Feel free to add your own letter or comment at the end of this post. I have written one in tribute to my primary school library:

 

Dear Port Noarlunga Primary School Library,
 
I spent 8 years visiting you during my time in primary school in Australia. You were a small dark corner of a big open plan classroom building which meant that you could easily walk out with books, and I’m afraid I did. Often. My older sister found my stash and told the librarian (probably in revenge for something I did to her). I remember returning the books very shame-faced but the librarian, Mrs Rugless, never held it against me. In fact, it seemed to act as some sort of evidence of my love for books and she always made a point of loading me up with books she thought I would like.
 
Mrs Rugless (the name seems hilarious now) was a very large and comfortable looking  woman who resided in an equally large and comfortable looking swivelling armchair. She read us many a story from this chair, her presence dominating the room whilst we sat on cushions at her feet, completely absorbed by whichever book she choose to read that week. When I got older, I was one of the many children who would discreetly slide ‘Where Did I Come From?’ from its place on the shelf to read with friends (and then leave) tucked away in a dark corner. I won a library competition one year where you had to read the most books in a certain time period. You were tested by the librarian after each book to make sure you had actually read it which was pretty scary stuff at the time . The winners, one girl and one boy, were announced in assembly, and as the first to go up I was allowed to choose either a pink or blue glitter pen. I chose the blue just to annoy the boy winner!
 
Even though it was small and dark, the library still had a big presence in the school and childen were regularly allowed to accompany teachers on book buying expeditions. Being allowed to choose a book for the library was very empowering as a child and was probably instrumental in my career choice. Now I get to go on book buying expeditions all the time to select children’s books for the Curriculum Centre. Brilliant.
 
Later school and university libraries, although very useful, were vast and impersonal and could never match the feeling of being cocooned in amongst the books with a big gentle librarian who commanded her kingdom from an armchair.
 
In very fond memory,
 
Lucy

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