‘C’thunk, c-thunk, c-thunk. Shhh.  Shhhh’

They are the sounds I remember as a child visiting my local library every Saturday.  I would walk with my father pulling a shopping trolley full of war books he’d read that week and a few Enid Blyton ones of mine.  We entered the hallowed wooden building and silence reigned, apart from the above sounds.  The aroma of books and polished mahogany wooden bookshelves filled with escapism, facts and possibility awaited us.

We came home an hour later, with dad helping me to pull the trolley.  He would take out each one, examine it and put them in the order to be read.  My Enid Blyton, LM Montgomery, E Nesbitt books (we were only allowed three at my age then) I put on my bedside table ready for when I went to bed early.

This was back in the 1970s and early ‘80s.  Even when the library moved to a larger purpose-built building, we continued our weekly visits until he died in 1983.  As an 11-year-old I continued the tradition.  This time through moving from childhood to adolescence and onto Judy Blume.  Then came the day when I discovered Mills & Boon.  Quite by accident of course.  Naturally nosey, one visit to my grandmothers, I discovered a bag of books and inside there they were.

Nan allowed me to borrow a few, slightly apprehensive given my age.  That was it.  My love for romance began with Forever by Judy Blume and continues to this very day.  The number of books I borrowed from the library increased with the excuse to my mother that I was reading romantic fiction for my exams.

Yet the library remained. An old friend who I returned to again and again.  Welcoming me with a smile from the librarians who took their time looking up information for me.  Even suggesting the new books that had arrived.  Naturally I borrowed them.

Life continued and evolved.  The library still had its familiar ‘c-thunk’ combined with a new bleeping and clicking until I left home.

As the new Libraries Liaison Officer for the RNA, I look back on those days with a smile and reminisce about the good times of silence and the sound of the library stamp.

However, life changes, technology advances and with it the library has remained, and has become a place for mums and babies to encourage reading and singing.  Teenagers to access the latest manga, comic books and use the technology available. Even a social gathering place for friends of all ages to meet and have a natter with some libraries having a café.

For me there is nothing more thrilling than walking into a library and looking for a book I’ve read rave reviews about, only to find it missing and needing to put my name on the waiting list.

Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic has caused a lot of libraries to close through lack of use.  Volunteers help, but time does not stand still and the availability of free books online, people using the library have declined drastically in numbers.

I’m passionate about my local library and libraries in general.  Where else can you escape into the realms of romance, science fiction, thrillers and who-dunnits? The diverse range of fiction and non-fiction section relevant to everyone where information about everything from beginnings of life, to relieving stress and raising teenagers…I think that’s a combined book.

To think that originally the library was a subscription service but for over a hundred years it’s been free. Thanks to the information below.

 Parliament appointed a committee, led by William Ewart, on Public Libraries to consider the necessity of establishing libraries through the nation: In 1849 their report noted the poor condition of library service, it recommended the establishment of free public libraries all over the country, and it led to the Public Libraries Act in 1850, which allowed all cities with populations exceeding 10,000 to levy taxes for the support of public libraries.in CampfieldManchester was the first library to operate a free lending library without subscription in 1852

(Source: The English Public Library)

I am proud to be LLO and to share my love and passion for these amazing buildings containing escapism, facts, and the chance to talk to others face to face.

It is up to us to keep them alive and together with the RNA, I have high hopes that future generations will be able to visit them and experience a world where imagination has no limits.

Amanda Ward

www.amandajward.weebly.com

Author of romance for the young at heart.

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