I am very excited to welcome Pete Johnson to Book Angel Booktopia today, his libraries post just makes me so happy and I am sure will provide inspiration for a lot of other people. Enjoy and your comments would be greatly appreciated.
Libraries changed my life.
I’ve always been captivated by stories. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of Mum reading to my sister, Linda and myself. Then on Sunday nights Dad would tell us really exciting tales – like ‘The Three Musketeers’ – which for years I thought he’d made up himself.
But joining the library was like finding myself in a vast intoxicating treasure trove. For one glorious hour, Mum would leave Linda and me under the kindly eye of the librarian, while we decided which six books each we’d be taking home. Only that hour sped past and by the time Mum returned, I was still stomping about with ten or eleven books under my arm agonising over which ones should make the final cut.
One of my six choices was almost always a ‘Just William’ book. Richmal Crompton’s stories made me laugh out loud. They also gave me a life-long love of humorous fiction, which now stretches from P.G. Wodehouse and Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ to Nick Hornby and David Nicholls.
But the wonderful thing about my library is that it also encouraged me to be adventurous. And alongside favourites like ‘Just William,’ Anthony Buckeridge’s ‘Jennings’ and Jane Shaw (still a very underrated writer) I’d spot a book in a display or be intrigued by a blurb. So stories like ‘Tom’s
’ by Philippa
Pearce or ‘Marianne Dreams’ by Catherine Storr, which I’m not sure I’d ever
have bought (though I did later) were sampled and became cherished discoveries.
And then I found ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ by Dodie Smith. It entranced me so much that I took it out from the library again and again. I couldn’t stop reading it. I tracked down other books by Dodie Smith too, including the wonderful, ‘I Capture the Castle.’ And then I wrote a fan letter to Dodie Smith. To everyone’s amazement – and my great delight – she replied. That was the beginning of a correspondence which went on for over twenty years.
And one day Dodie Smith asked if I’d ever thought of becoming a writer myself, as she was sure I’d make a good one. So she first put the idea into my head and when the inevitable rejections thudded through my letter box, it was she and her husband, Alec, who urged me to keep going. ‘We just know it will happen for you,’ she said.
And one glorious day it did. And there were my children’s books on the library shelves. Today when a library invites me to give a reading and I hear children laughing at, ‘How To Train Your Parents,’ or ‘Rescuing Dad,’ or listening in tense silence to ‘The Vampire Blog or ‘Traitor’ (which is dedicated to Dodie Smith) I feel as if my life has come full circle.
I also visit the library now with my nephews and niece. They use the computers, peruse the magazines and enjoy all the exciting events and Book Club meetings.
Libraries have changed and developed since I first joined. In fact, they’re more exciting and dynamic than ever.
But as I watch my nephews and niece agonise over their book choices (They’re allowed eight books each now and it still isn’t enough) I realise some things remain gloriously the same.
And long, long may libraries continue.