The summers of my childhood were usually spent in wild abandonment, spending every other night at a friends, or roaming the town looking for an adventure.
I never found a more adventurous place than the local library.
The best part of my day, would be the long winded pleading with my mum to take me, just to get a new book so that I wasn’t bored in the evening (even though I had an entire bookcase full of books to be read.)
The main reason would be the competition that the library would run every summer… The Reading Relay.
It was simple enough, you go to the library and choose a book, with that book you get a foldout card where the librarian would write the title of the book you have chosen, and the date. You then take the book and read it (obviously.) When you were finished, you would take the book back with a little description of whether you enjoyed it or not. The librarian would stamp the relevant page and off you go… to get the next one. Six books over six weeks and at the end there would be a small ceremony where everyone who had reached the goal would receive a certificate and a medal (my favourite bit.) It felt like my greatest achievement at that age. I would spend the rest of the year trying to persuade my friends to do the same and join the challenge, always using the fact of winning a medal as a little sweetener.
I recently, went to visit my hometown local library, not in it’s usual place at the top of town, but now relocated into the swanky, newly decorated community centre at the bottom of town. My friend Holly and I went to check it out before the summer just to be nosy, we were sad at the fact that it had moved and it wasn’t the library of our childhood.
I went back alone and spoke to the current librarian there, who was lovely enough to tell me everything that had been going on, that they get a good amount of volunteers from the schools in the surrounding area. Hearing this made me incredibly jealous, as this would have been something that I would have jumped at the chance. Hearing all of this made me realise that this is now the library of a younger generation, and that they still enjoy all of things I had when I was younger.
I spoke to two of the volunteers, age only just fourteen, who said that they were passionate about reading and helping at the library as they felt it was important to keep things like this going for younger children, to build a safe environment for book lovers. I asked them if they thought there was a way to get more children their age to read more, they were unsure of how to do this, but would keep thinking as they continued to volunteer. In all honesty, I was surprised to hear how many teenagers were asking to volunteer, I had thought that reading had gone out of style for a lot of children that age.
It was lovely to see so many people young and old enjoying the facilities, such as the computer room. It is handy to have a place that people who don’t have access or the knowledge to use the technology let alone the maze that is the internet. They can enjoy a short walk to the hub of the town and learn without fear of ridicule.
Along with having the use of numerous amounts of books in all different sections such as Travel, Science, Fiction, Non-fiction, Audio books and a wonderfully colourful Children’s section and the computer room. As you go through the main doors you are met with two noticeboards, full of posters of events going on not just in the town, but in the surrounding area. For young and older people. Some of them include, a wildlife group for nursery children and their parents, a fitness class at the leisure centre, the popular Karate classes, Yoga classes and the popular pop up cinema.
The best part of visiting again, was learning that all these years later, (and it is MANY years) they still have the reading challenges for young children. It was a cherry on the top to see the new library still carrying out the competition that I had such fun joining when I was a child. I was even happier to hear that last year they had a record breaking amount of participants totalling to eighty children, wanting to read over their summer.
Seeing all of this was just fantastic, however much I love buying new books, I couldn’t help but want to borrow several books. Then I remembered that I might not be in the town for a long time, the late fines would definitely rack up. I would not be prepared for that at all.
It just reminds us that we have to do our best to help keep the libraries open. Not only do they impart knowledge in the form of books, they bring together a community that is miles from the nearest city or ‘bigger’ town. We must do everything in our power to make sure that the next generation grows up knowing that they have places like this to escape to if they need it. A place where they don’t have to speak to anyone if they don’t want to, a place where they can find a passion, essentially shaping their future.
Do you still visit your childhood library? Tell me about them in the comments, I would love to hear about them.
All words are my own.
Thank you to the Branch Librarian Hannah Isaacson for talking to me, and the two volunteers who will not be named, as they are underage.