I went to the library today. I’m ashamed to say I can’t believe how long it’s been since I was last there, but I shall certainly be back.
The building is light, words buzz just out of hearing. People study the shelves with interest, confusion, excitement. Fingers reach, hesitate, reach again. Covers are scrutinised, sleeves skimmed, first pages begun.
Suddenly, a memory floods back to me. Mum is producing the book bag when I get home from school. She’s been to the library. She’s chosen books for me. At this moment, anything is possible. I could be a princess, a pirate, a hero, a villain. I could learn, explore, discover, I could laugh, cry, grow. With each book comes a wealth of words, experiences, challenges and joys and book by book the possibilities wind around each other, freeing my mind and opening doors I didn’t even know where closed. Long after the book returns to the shelf the stories stay with me. There’s a bond between me and everyone else who’s read this book now, especially those who held this exact copy. We’ve been on this adventure together, we’ve held our breath, clutched the pages so they wrinkle, become so engrossed we’ve accidentally squashed the remains of a chocolate biscuit between the pages. We’ve held it under the covers and tuned out the world around us, we’ve saved the world together and we’ve never even met.
The library welcomes us all. It doesn’t care if we are rich or poor, it doesn’t judge us and it doesn’t want anything from us but our presence. The library will teach us, comfort us, entertain us and guide us. We can experiment and ask, share and engage. We can download a book, sing with our children and meet with our heroes. And all for free. Like the books themselves, I think that’s worth holding on to.