Coming from a household where money was very tight and from parents who did not read, I was fortunate enough to be introduced by a friend’s mother to a small local library in Portsmouth, the Alderman Lacey Library in Tangiers Road. There I discovered a treasure trove of books, the sheer volume and variety of which would have been impossible for my parents to buy, let alone store. I devoured everything from adventure to classics and many in between.
Books opened up a whole new world for me as a child, providing me with endless hours of pleasure, an escape into another world so very different from my own and the library inspired in me a life long passion for reading, and for writing.
Books enrich our lives in so many ways, not only are they good for our health because reading increases confidence and can help to alleviate depression, but books also enlighten, educate, entertain and inform. And what’s more libraries provide them free of charge, to one and all, there is no discrimination.
There are many who cannot afford to buy books and who certainly don’t have access to the wide range of books that the libraries provide. Trained librarians are also essential. They are able to advise and assist individuals, they have the experience and expertise to select a wide range of stock, they catalogue and curate vital local and national collections and they also play a major part in helping to bring the community together.
I have had the honour of giving many talks to readers in libraries across the UK and have met interesting people of all ages and from all walks of life who greatly value this community service. We need public libraries and we need librarians. And we need a commitment by local and national government to support them. Without the library service it would be a very barren landscape indeed.