So, what is my favourite book? Well, to be honest, I can’t choose, there are so many to choose from, and all well stored in my memory. Not, however, because we had a large number of books at home when I was a child! No, I got my stories from somewhere else.
Coming from a background where there was only just enough money for the essentials of life, there were very few books at home, but, encouraged by my lovely mum, our local library was my lifeline. It was my favourite place in all the world, a comfort blanket and an Aladdin’s cave all rolled into one. The librarians were the people I envied most in all the world – What bliss to be surrounded by books all day!
My local library was originally financed by a wonderful Victorian philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Andrew was a poor boy who became a self-made millionaire, and he felt it was his duty to help others improve their lives. I learned later that in 1889 he wrote an article calling on the rich to use their wealth to improve society, and it stimulated a wave of philanthropy which I think many of us have reason to be thankful for today.
I was able to retreat to my local library and find other worlds and new possibilities, not just through reading fiction and discovering the wonders of poetry but by finding encyclopedias that told me about a world far away from my inner city home. Without that library I would have suffered, not just educationally but psychologically; it gave me ideas and dreams that I otherwise might never have had.
When I read now of libraries closing due to spending cuts, I am desperately worried about those other bright inner city children, just like me, who will now not have a chance to explore other worlds and dream other dreams. With World Book Day on 3rd March almost upon us, it would be nice to think that those in power might spare a thought as to how this trend could be reversed. Or is that just another dream? I sincerely hope not.