Yesterday was National Libraries Day in the UK. I followed the hashcode (well, there were several hashcodes actually, and many of us seem to have got the wrong year but, I’m guessing librarians are used to that…) #nld16, and got a bit overcome. SO MUCH LOVE!
And why not? Here’s a picture of a man reading a book about libraries in my local library, Tunbridge Wells. That’s my husband actually, and he was supposed to be making sure I didn’t get too embarrassed when I gave a box of chocolates as a thank you to the Tunbridge Wellsian librarians. Of course, he got immediately engrossed in the book and forgot all about me. But hurrah! That’s what happens in libraries.
Because while there have been amazing, wonderful, heartfelt messages about what libraries have meant for us, and should still do, as children, every time I go, it’s the adults I notice. Sometimes the elderly, sometimes the vulnerable, sometimes those who just want to complain, or surprise themselves with a book they’d never buy, or get warm, or use the computer, or read the newspaper. Sometimes I’m all of those things, and I do all of those things, and I know I’ll always feel safe in a library.
And at a time when we are acknowledging the destructive miserable horror that is loneliness, – it’s not new, of course, but maybe we’re just talking about it more now – it seems so daft that we’re also busy closing libraries.
One of my highlights last year was a visit to the Carnegie Library in London – you can see my post here – to sit in on a session for adult literacy learning for the Ruskin Readers. A quick look at their website today showed just how many events are organised through libraries in the area – from chess club, to homework club, to art therapy, to book groups, to walks.
Of course, it’s fine for a library not just to be about books. It’s a place for information, for pleasure, and, perhaps for the only time during the course of a day, for not feeling alone.
Well, a bit like reading a book actually!
Here’s a poem I wrote for the Ruskin Readers after my trip there last year. These are all snippets and stories I heard as I sat with people learning to read…
In some circumstances, a y
sounds like an i,
put two consonants together
to feel your tongue moving forwards.
After a life on shifting sea, his son
asks him, why bother, but he’s pinning
himself down to this new country,
word by word by word.
She asks why should others miss out
on the pleasure she’s got from books,
and I see Dorothea, Elizabeth Bennett,
even Heathcliffe draw chairs up,
sounding the letters silently with her
as she listens, explains, listens, corrects.
Listen to these scribbles on the page,
read the pictures with me,
we’re moving through the days here:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday.
I agree it doesn’t always make sense,
the words are moving too quickly,
out of reach, just like our days,
and yes, days
is a different kind of Y.
Let’s try again.