Today is NATIONAL LIBRARIES DAY

Which celebrates all libraries: public libraries, school libraries, university libraries, prison libraries, law libraries etc.  It also celebrates librarians, members and supporters across the UK.

Why not have a world-wide Celebration of Libraries?
We’d be lost without them!

I LOVE libraries.

I love reading because of libraries and I have no doubt, that I am a writer today, because of all the books I devoured from their vast shelves . . .

I spent weekends and holidays at my gran’s and remember fondly, from the age of seven, walking to Inchicore Library, Dublin, each day where I would spend hours scouring the shelves for their latest offering.  I would hand in my two green tickets and in return, I was allowed to take two precious books home.  They would have been read, from cover-to-cover, and returned the following afternoon when I’d walk back through the swinging half-door to repeat the process.  Years later, after reading Stephen King’s, ‘IT’, I could see that scarey clown, in my mind’s eye, standing right there!

But way back then, it was Enid Blyton’s books, ranging from; The Faraway Tree; Brer Rabbit or Noddy to The Secret Seven; The Famous Five and The Five Find-Outers (remember Fatty with his fabulous disguises and Buster and Mr Goon?).  I wonder in current re-prints if Fatty has changed his name?  Everyone loved him in the books and it was only ever used as a term of endearment – but different times.  Ditto with Noddy and Big Ears . . .

English: Blue plaque for Enid Blyton near Dulw...

English: Blue plaque for Enid Blyton near Dulwich Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember moving on to HE Todd’s Bobby Brewster books – do you remember Bobby with the magic kite, magic lamp or the magic hair that stuck up at the back of his head?  Or the Mrs Pepperpot books by Alf Prøysen – the poor woman spent more of her life shrinking at the most inopportune moments, to be saved by her black cat who would take her home on his back – just in the nick of time.  I was enchanted by the magical stories about The Five Children (and it), written by E Nesbit, but when my cousin Charlie, after spending the afternoon teaching me to play chess, gave me his copy of ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, I had to be prised from the pages.  It is still, to this day, one of my all-time favourite books – thanks Charlie!  I gobbled it up along with the rest of the Narnia chronicles and had the pleasure of re-living them all again when my children came along.

Although I received hundreds of books over the years, without my local library, my parents would never have been able to keep up with my reading appetite.  Today, with purse strings a little tighter, we should be making the most of this great facility we have on our doorsteps – to be able, for free, to borrow brand new books which have just arrived in the shops; older books by a new author you’ve recently enjoyed; to be able to search out and borrow books which are no longer in print and to research absolutely any topic under the sun.  Do we cherish our libraries as much as we should?  When was the last time you visited your local library?  You might be surprised to see the rows of PC’s, racks of CD’s and shelves of DVD’s.  Fans of the eReader can borrow books, from the comfort of their own home, without ever having to worry about fines – the books magically return to the library on their due date!

I am fortunate to be a member of The County Library, Tallaght, where, along with fellow writers and poets from local writing groups, we had the opportunity to Read our work.  Sign up for emails at your local library, to keep you informed of events they run, which can be anything from free Readings to free Spanish or creative writing classes . . .

I look forward, immensely, to your comments on your favourite library and your favourite children’s books – and hopefully one or two of you may remember some of mine!

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About Susan Condon

Irish Writer and Poet. Award winning, published short story writer.

Posted on February 4, 2012, in Events, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. To me a library is:-
    An Aldines Cave of adventure, filled with information to fire the imagination.
    Inspiration for the soul.
    A door into the lives of every great philosopher, Artist, Humanitarian, Writer that ever lived.
    A place to visit every country & culture of the world.
    A treasure trove of delight, humour and adventure
    The safest of havens to explore oneself
    The place I found the greatest & most constant love of my life called Book….

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  2. Lonny, @pronetworkbuild sent me by here… i’m da ferret. i guess i am playing clean up hitter for all these pet humans. i see the usual suspects, Ami, Piper, the rest of em..

    i’m a big reader as well. i go to the library, and the kids all want to read with me, i tell them my own stories too, and they get a kick out of them. i like to tell them how i found Bigfoot, and the one about the Lost Tribe of the Delta…

    i have all sorts of books. my burrow is kind of like a library to the initiated. thought i’d leave you a link to a story a journalist did on me, called: “My Interview with the Colonel” here it is: http://www.scribd.com/doc/59232293/An-Interview-With-the-Colonel

    I hope you like it. i would be happy for you to stop by. beware: i browse libraries for good sarcasm.

    Col Clemons tweets @Samuel_Clemons

    tweet me when you’ve moderated, etc. etc. sometimes i’m busy wif da twin masseuses… something about increased college tuition, i don’t really pay much attention to them, but they make me laugh

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  3. I had read every book in the kid’s section in my local and school libraries by the time I was in 6th grade. I loved going to the library. It meant my day would include transport to a wonderful new world of words as soon as I checked something out.

    My daughter is 9. One of her most treasured possessions is her library card. We are fortunate that our local library is a grand and glorious structure, with a well-appointed children’s area, computer stations, meeting rooms, books, audio books, CDs and movies for checkout. It warms my heart that my child loves to go to the library and spend time there. If I can do any little thing to instill in her a lifelong love of reading, then I will know that I’ve done at least one thing right as a parent.

    Personally, I’m the teensiest bit jealous of transparentguy. As a horse-crazy kid, I adored Walter Farley’s books. I’d have given anything to have had the opportunity to *meet* the man. He and C.S. Lewis were the first authors I knew by name and loved.

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    • Thanks for commenting Ami – and I’ll definitely have to take a look at a Walter Farely book when I’m back in the library this week. I don’t remember ever seeing any of his books’ as a child – but you’ve both aroused my interest. 😮

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  4. I love the nooks and crannies I find in deserted libraries. When I was a kid, I used to find the most obscure locations. I found peace there.

    The thing I really miss with modern libraries is the card catalog. I loved just flipping through the cards, finding out what people wrote books about. With everything computerized, you have to know, at least generally, what you’re looking for before you can find it. It’s so much more difficult to find surprising treasures than it was when things I never suspected jumped out of the drawers at me. Thank you for your blog, Susan. 🙂

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    • Thanks for your comment Piper. I hadn’t heard of the card catalog before but definitely sounds like something that, even with computerised systems, could do with a come-back. These are the things that you remember fondly and that made your library visits even more enjoyable . . .

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  5. I wasn’t reading as much as I should, and the 4th grade teacher sent me to the Library. “By myself? This isn’t Library Day, are you sure?” I asked. She said, “You are allowed to go, Lonny, ALL BY YOURSELF… ” And when I went down there, it was quiet, no other kids. Since it doubled as the cafeteria, this was a completely new experience. No chaos, no noise or distractions. The Librarian and I selected a Biography of Geo. Washington, out of a series of famous americans. The Librarian informed me that when I finished that one, I could bring it back, and select another. “All by yourself, you don’t have to wait for Library Day, Lonny. As soon as you finish that one, bring it back, and I’ll make an exception for you”

    I probably didn’t realise it was an inside job.

    Before the Christmas break, I had read every single book, one by one not only in the Biography section, but in the 4th grade area. All of them. I turned into a vociferous reader. Such was my reading skill that I went on to win spelling Bees for years to come, and became a writer and editor, and have owned magazines and published other works. That because two folks saw something in me that I probably didn’t even realise existed, and it just needed to be brought out.

    And since you asked me on Twitter, I will mention this. I found a few years back a Library which is part of the Alexandria City system. It sells hardcovers for 1.00 and softcovers for 50 cents. Quite a find, really. People donate books and the Libary takes books off the shelves that are no longer as popular. I have purchased many classics, many fine books from this particular location, and it is cheaper than the Used Book Stores are.

    In short, Libraries have enriched my life beyond measure, and I will never, ever forget those two ladies who changed my life.

    I Tweet at @ProNetworkBuild

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    • Enjoyed reading your comment Lonny – I can see you, in my mind’s eye, feeling so important as you go ‘all by yourself’ to choose another treasured book! And the best ‘inside job’ I’ve ever heard – amazing how influential the right librarian can be . . .

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  6. hi susan, i loved and still love the library.. i spent alot of time as a child in the library that was in blanchardstown in roselawn shopping centre.its gone now but has been replaced by the fabulous library beside the blanchardstown shopping centre. I always remember thinking to myself .. so many books, how am i going to read them all. Now i live in Ratoath and Ashbourne have a fabulous library and my daugther loves it too. only recently on a visit to Ashbourne my daugther said to me, so many books mum.. how will i read them all..!!

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  7. Going to the library was a Saturday ritual in our house. I think my mother took us, mainly for the quiet, but she did encourage our love of books. It’s so important to celebrate libraries and everything they stand for. My daughter loves our trips to the library and there’s nothing better than bringing a real treasure home, even if it’s just for a few weeks. Your post carries a very important message. Libraries and books deserve to be cherished. x

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  8. Sorry for coming to the post so late. I loved the library as a child and teenager. My fav day, was the day I got my adult ticket and the whole world of books opened up for me. Rathmines was my local, and my heart still skips a beat when I pass it, even driving past it. It is a beautiful building, and holds so many memories of my very young and enthusiastic self:)

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    • I’d forgotten the thrill of the ‘Adult Ticket’, Louise – a licence to take out any book from any shelf anywhere in the library! I feel the same as you, but with Inchicore Library. I’m from Glasnevin but spent so much time at my Gran’s – I went back to re-visit the library last year – first time in over thirty years and wasn’t disappointed!

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  9. Lovely post, Sue. Growing up, I loved libraries too. The ones on Templeogue Road and Rathmines Road were the nearest to me and they were such cosy places to browse and dream in. I read all the Enid Blyton’s too – Mallory Towers was a favourite. My granny used to borrow armfuls of Mills & Boon – all those swooning heroines and strong-jawed men! I used to read them on the sly when I was eleven and twelve. Granny was obviously a hopeless romantic!

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  10. I joined the mobile library when I was 5 years old and borrowed “The little sail boat” by Lois Lenski. I proceeded to return it and then borrow it again each week for a few months. The library lady was very understanding. Later I visited a library at Aspull, with my dad every Friday. I grew to love the staff there, Mrs Webb and Mrs Bennett. They would let me “help” by stamping cards and learning how to file in alphabetical order. I read Rosemary Sutcliff and was transported to Roman Britain, I camped with the Walkers on Wildcat Island in the Arthur Ransome books and I too loved the Narnia chronicles. When I was 10, Mrs Webb remarked that I might like to work in a library when I grew up. A dream beyond my wildest! And at 16 years old I started in my new post as library assistant – working on Fridays at Aspull library under the loving guidance of my wonderful ladies. That was nearly 40 years ago, and I’m still in libraries and enjoying them just as much. I still think they are the most exciting places on earth.

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    • I don’t know ‘The Little Sail Boat’, Susan, but it must have been good! I too would have loved to work in a library or a book store. I love both, especially second-hand book stores – but just as easy to go to the library and get the book for free! During the boom times I would have visited a local book store every week to pick up two or three books but unfortunately, it was one of the first casualties of the recession. But I still have Chapters in Dublin City Centre and I have the library close-by.

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  11. Reading lets you travel the world and opens so many doors for learning. It’s so hard to get kids into books in the digital era, but once you get them hooked, it stays. My oldest is a teenager and he still likes to have me read to him. He reads perfectly well on his own, but I know he looks forward to quiet time with a parent that is missing for so many families in the busy days most people have. I know he’ll be a lifelong reader because he knows the pleasure of having the story slowly unfold.

    Re: writing and books. In every writing workshop one takes, at some point, the professor will say something along the lines of “to be a good writer, you have to be a great reader.” The best way to learn the craft is by taking apart every thing you read and looking at how it was put together.

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    • At six weeks old my kids had their own library cards and have always surrounded them with books – but maybe sometimes too much so! It worked for my son, but for my daughter, by buying the complete series of a book she loved to keep her reading I think it worked the opposite. But now, music has taken a hold and biographies on Slash, Keith Richards etc are the order of the day. Maybe not quite what I had hoped, but she’s reading! And I do agree with you on writing – you don’t even realise what you have stored up over the years until it all begins to appear on the page . . .

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  12. Great post Susan. I share your love for libraries. I didn’t grow up in a house full of books so relied on my local library to feed my appetite for words. I loved Enid Blyton’s books too. I can still remember being transported from my terraced Council house to the seaside boarding school from the Malory Tower series. I’m doing a MLitt in Creative Writing at the moment, and although there’s no way to prove it, I believe that library was where my love for books is rooted and continues to grow.

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    • I agree, there’s no proof – but a library filled with books to keep our brain fed during our childhood and formative years can only have led to something wonderful. I only began writing in 2008 and felt the magic of childhood again – like finding a shelf filled with my favourite authors but having to choose only two. Standing there, trying to decide which two would come home with me and hoping that the others would still be there when I came back . . .

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  13. All I can say is “Hear, hear” Susan. I echo every sentiment in that post. Libraries are hugely important, especially for kids, and even more so in these recessionary times. And I LOVED the Five Find Outers (way more than the Famous Five of the Secret Seven). I so wanted to be one of them in the shed down the back of the garden having tea and cakes!

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  14. My own favorite memory of a childhood library is one in Venice, FL, where some of Walter Farley’s memorabilia is on display. When I was child going to this library, Farley was still alive and he was very generous with his time when it came to kids and writing. He sometimes let his Black Stallion series fans visit his workshop and would show them the typewriter he worked on and the different global editions of his books.

    I like finding books that I can read out loud to my kids the we all enjoy. Roald Daahl, Neil Gaiman, Mo Willems, J.K. Rowling, E.L. Konigsburg, etc.

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    • I’m not familiar with Walter Farley, but sounded like a great guy and what a brilliant memory of his workshop – priceless! Loved to read Roald Daahl to my own kids and absolutely adore JK Rowling – sucks you right in, no matter what age you are . . .

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  15. We both obviously love books, but our childhood books are from different era’s – all apart from E Nesbit’s ‘The Railway Children’. But so glad to meet yet another book lover.

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  1. Pingback: A childhood spent reading « thebradfordlibrarian

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