What Libraries Mean To Me – Celia Rees
choose, to look at all the different books and then decide which ones to take into my temporary possession. My tastes ran to Beatrix Potter and Noddy, neither favorites of my mother, but she tolerated my choices and read them to me when we got home.
My next rite of passage was the beige ticket that allowed me to borrow from the adult library. As an early adolescent, I glutted on Romance and read a whole shelf of Mazo De La Roche’s Jalna family saga before going on to the historical novels of Georgette Heyer, Nora Lofts, Jean Plaidy. I never thought that decades later I would be writing Historical Fiction myself, but now the connection is obvious. I read Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ngaio Marsh and the darker fiction of Algernon Blackwood, Dennis Wheatley, M.R. James and Edgar Alan Poe. My taste as an adult reader were forming and thus the kind of writer that I would become. I still like thrillers and have written my share of crime and supernatural.
When I was older still, studying for A levels and then at university, the library became another kind of resource. I could access books on every subject I wanted. It gave me all I needed to know.
The library allowed my mind to expand and it shaped my imagination. I was learning to write without even knowing.
Libraries open a door into a whole world of fiction and knowledge. Long may they continue to do so. A free, well stocked library service, easily and readily available to all is not just a right, it is the mark of a civilised society. It is well to remember that the monument in Berlin to the Nazi Book Burning is a room full of empty shelves.