Although I was lucky enough to have parents who bought books, and three older sisters whose collections I could plunder, libraries have been a huge part of my life. My first library experience was waiting beneath the poplar tree with my mother, for the large grey mobile library van on its fortnightly country round. I would anticipate the joys of its wonderful smell, the colourful array of books on the shelves, the exotic date stamp and ink pad, and the satisfying feel of fat books with their plastic coverings.
Once I started school there was the excitement of the library collection delivered once a term to Easter Compton infant school, where we could choose new books to take home. My selections included Barbar the Elephant and my favourite, a delightful story of woodland rabbits and bluebells. At home I continued to read the books my mother had read to me, Beatrix Potter and Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit series.
The lending shelf at my junior school from which we could just help ourselves, provided the Pollyanna books, and then came the proper library at my secondary school, where new treasures were waiting.
Visits to the library at Westbury-on-Trym, whiled away the time between getting off the bus and heading for youth club every Wednesday, where the selection was greater than anything I had encountered before. Friends willingly lent and swapped books increasing my literary feast.
After I left school, the library at Central School of Speech and Drama stocked the text books I needed, but just a matter of yards away was the fantastic Swiss Cottage library to provide anything and everything else. After graduation, in my first job, the lunch-hour was long enough to allow a visit every week to the local library in Ponders End. The Muswell Hill library near my flat lent me books and, on one occasion, shelter when I locked myself out and had to wait for my partner to come home!
The libraries of Barnet now lend me books that I would never have thought of buying for myself and my nearest library at North Finchley hosts a stimulating reading group. While I am fortunate to be able to buy books, and have bought hundreds over the years, I couldn’t possibly have afforded to buy all the books I have read; I’m certainly not rich enough but libraries are the richest place on earth.
Communities need libraries, and I shall be attending Friern Barnet Library’s party on Saturday 16th July between 2.00-4.00 pm in support of keeping this historic library open for its local community.