True crime, corporate thrillers, sci-fi, romance and even cowboy stories – can there be a British writer who wasn’t inspired by their local library? Libraries hold a special place in my heart. Growing up in a large family, I was lucky to receive a handful of new books every year. I read them over and over again, passing them on to my siblings until the pages tore and the spines crumbled. The local library was like Aladdin’s cave for me. I must have read every one of its children’s books. If you’re reading this, I bet you’ve had a similar experience.
As an adult, my local library has become more than a home for dreams and knowledge. It provides a meeting room for the supportive writer’s group who have helped me hone my craft, and it’s a safe, quiet place to meet friends (not always – there’s space in my life for cocktail bars too!).
Yet now, more than ever, we can’t take libraries for granted. The splendid new Library of Birmingham, a public asset so amazing that tourists come to gasp at its cathedral-like dome, is being forced to cut its hours from 73 to 40 per week. Bristol is considering closing its central library for one day a week, and shutting several suburban branches. These local authorities aren’t evil philistines; their finances are being squeezed by central government.
Personally, I’d rather pay a bit more tax and keep the wonderful libraries that serve our community so well. If you’re not convinced, read this article by Neil Gaiman. He explains that reading and libraries don’t just make our lives more pleasant, they build our futures too.
Should you be in Bristol on Thursday 16th April, come along to the Lansdown pub in Clifton – I’m joining other writers to read some wickedly humorous stories at Novel Nights. The event starts at 8pm. There’s time to attend a neighbourhood meeting about some of the city’s libraries first…
Show some love to your local library – pop in for a book, see what’s happening in your locality, and tell the staff they’re terrific!