A Love Letter to Libraries

Swapna Haddow Roosting With Dave, Scrapbook Leave a Comment

This weekend has been a celebration of books and those wonderful unsung heroes who do everything they can to get books into the hands of children. On Saturday was the inaugural Books Are My Bag Bookshop Day and as a debut author, I can’t thank bookshops and booksellers enough for all they have done to support Dave Pigeon. THANK YOU, YOU BRILLIANT BOOK FOLK.

This weekend was also the Youth Libraries Group Conference in Cardiff and I had the wonderful honour of being invited to join the new authors’ panel alongside Ross Welford (Time Travelling with a Hamster), Huw Davies (Scrambled) and Claire Fayers (The Accidental Pirates).

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We showcased our work and answered questions put to us by the wonderful chair Jake Hope on writing humour and the books we enjoyed as children. Whilst we were discussing our love of stories, it transpired that we were all children of books, whatever the age we came to love reading, and that libraries and librarians played a huge part in getting those books into our hands.

As a child, the local library visit was my weekly treat. We didn’t have much in the way of fiction at home and when our mother sent us along to the library, her trusty ‘babysitter’, it was a chance to get my hands on all the books she would have hated me to read. I remember the children’s section of the Treaty Centre Library in Hounslow and then when we moved house to North London, the equally inviting children’s corner of the Wood Green Library. The librarians became accustomed to our presence and they started to put books aside for me on Saturday mornings as they pointed me in the direction of brilliant stories and great authors. My sisters and I would be head deep in adventures, romance, crime and horror as my mother got on with her weekly chores, blissfully unaware that we were not self-educating with maths books and encyclopaedias as she thought.

There were so many topics and issues we weren’t allowed to talk about at home. Mine was a childhood of an imported prudish Indian culture, compounded with my parents newly-gained straitlaced Britishness. My sisters and I didn’t stand a chance when it came to asking our parents about anything that might help us understand the changing world around us. Books gave me a chance to explore feelings and ideas before I faced them in the real world. All I know is that if it hadn’t been for brilliant librarians and the accessibility of books in the library I would be a pretty incompetent human. Or at least a far more incompetent one than I am now.


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