I’ve always loved the peaceful feel of libraries, and have spent countless hours studying and writing in them, but thanks to the Corona virus, I haven’t stepped foot in a library for over four months, by far the longest I’ve gone without a library-fix since I became a member of Northcote Road library in South London more than 30 years ago. That library was just across the road from my mum and dad’s antiques shop, and I would go there to do my homework on a Saturday while they worked, feeling extremely grown-up and sophisticated in the basement ‘study room’.
At school, I was class librarian almost every year. Probably because I was one of the few girls not petrified of the librarian, who was very strict about books being put back in their correct place.
When I started at university, one of the first things I did was get a job at the library there, reshelving books and hunting out books and articles for inter-library loans, which ended up being where I made my closest friends during my uni years.
Nowadays, I’ll often use my local library for writing in, and count many of its librarians as friends – friends with the benefit of getting me books!
I love to browse, as well as put in requests for all sorts of books, books I’ve read about or been recommended, and it’s a highlight of my week to go to pick them up.
Then lockdown happened, and the libraries closed. It had been a good opportunity for me to get through some of the rather large backlog of unread books on my own shelves, which has proved to be an unexpected benefit and rather lovely. However, I have a list in my journal of all the books I’m going to pick up as soon as the libraries are open again, and I’ll be first in the queue when they do.
I think this time has taught us all how important libraries are, especially to the local community as a whole: libraries are a lifeline to so many people – young mums, desperate for somewhere to go with their babies on a rainy day, the lonely, the elderly, teenagers looking for somewhere quiet to study after school, those without internet access at home… the list goes on. So, when it’s safe for libraries to resume their vital services, let’s all make sure we visit and show our support for them any way we can, look into all the extra things they offer – like DVD rental and ebooks – which you might not have known about before. Make the most of them, and let librarians know just how valued they are, because they’ve been missed by many so very, very much.