I went to my local library this morning to borrow a DVD and wish the staff a Happy National Libraries Day. They were aiming across all the Derbyshire libraries to issue 10,000 books today so I added in my contribution to help. Of course I was tempted to do so by the chance of winning some book tokens!
Walking back I began to think about the contribution libraries have made to my life and how much poorer I'd have been without them. So this is my love letter to libraries today and all who work in them.
For a start I'd have missed out on twenty years of a fascinating career. And that's my first confession. It's thirty years since I stopped being a librarian but it's still in my blood. That professional instinctive look round when I walk in any library. How do they do things, what's on offer and what are the staff like?
It was Monica Edwards, librarian who tempted me into my career. One of a series of career novels when I was growing up and haunting our local library, over the canal bridge and on the first floor of the local council offices. Followed by Monica Edwards, mobile librarian; both of which I became. A love born of three strands; the books, of course, the borrowers, and the organisation. All those trays with readers tickets and book cards. Bless the Brown issuing system.
When I joined Lancashire County Library straight from school I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven to be surrounded by thousands of books. Despite spending much of a year in the subterraneun regions of the circulating department our reach stretched over the whole county as we sorted, allocated and despatched books every week. And I did get to see parts of the county on two mobile routes across some of the most beautiful hill country outside Preston.
Libraries now are so different from when I began. Computers were starting to be used when I left my final posting in academic libraries and very few could have quite predicted then the technology now available in all libraries.
It's my belief libraries will survive; despite our staid image, librarians have always been ready to meet changing conditions and times. Surviving the current loss of funding will be challenging but I'm heartened by the commitment in Derbyshire to keep the service going.
Very few people I guess look up as they walk in my local library and study the inscription about it being a Carnegie library. A man with a vision to allow those less fortunate to have access to a place of learning and of safety. A place where if you wanted you could meet like minded people.
Even in these days of Google and Amazon, I pray that such places still will exist, where all are welcomed, their horizons extended and doors are opened. It happened for me and changed my life.