Please don’t make the same mistake I did.
I signed up to the library the moment I had a utility bill in my hand. I couldn’t wait to get the membership card, wind through the turnstile and potter the shelves of West Norwood’s humble little library. The books were tatty, floppy, tired and coughed back at you in weird sad cobwebby cries…’take me home’ they’d wail. And I did. I took a giant stack of books home, all piled up, it felt so romantic. I felt awfully feminine for some reason. In control. Powerful. I felt like I should drink herbal tea and coffee and eat fresh baguette from a brown paper bag and pick a flower and get one of those bikes with the big basket. Look at meeeeeee….I go to the libraaaaaaary….trrrraaaa laaaaa.
I might get a cat.
And then reality hit me. Like a big fat bruise. Errr…from a flying book. In the face.
The books were tatty and floppy and tired and neglected but just changed location, to my dining room table, under my side of the bed. I had stuff to do. How was I ever going to munch through this daunting pile? Why did I have to be so EAGER and AMBITIOUS? Before I knew the books were due back or else I would receive a penalty fine. And I couldn’t have that. Not at a library. So I returned them. Beating myself up the whole way home. You silly girl. But then reassured myself that I would go back the week after and get some more books and actually, this time READ them. The weeks turned into months and before I knew it. One day. The library was closed.
The doors shut. The iron gates bolted. A tree growing into its walls like a parasite, the roof had burst, letting rainwater in. It became a rubbish heap. A pigeon disco. A meeting place for fried chicken boxes. Right under my nose. There I was campaigning for the closing of libraries and my OWN LOCAL library had died, right under my nose and it seemed nobody even cared. I felt terrible.
Weeks later I was on the bus and a little girl gets on, she is beaming, clutching a stack of books. She sits opposite me, beaming, so pleased and smug with her tower of borrowed books, I look at the books, curiously, assuming she got them from school and she says, ‘I am SO thankful that the library is open again, I don’t know what I would do without it.’
It turns out the library had old copper in the roof that had rotted away and caused a leak that turned into a flood. The library had just moved house into the beautiful building next to the post office. It wasn’t dead. It wasn’t over. I’ve moved to a new area now so I’ll never be able to go and say hello to those books that I let down in my house but the voice of that small child on the bus often whizzes round and round in my head. ‘I don’t know what I would do without it.’ And how much I had taken all those wonderful books and the stories inside them for granted.
Love your local library because you won’t know how much you will miss it until it is gone.