My mother and grandmother were always great readers, and I was taken along to the library at an early age. Our nearest branch library was quite an old building, with a small children's section. Then, when I was in junior school, a brand new branch library opened nearer my home. I was given my own ticket, and soon I was plundering the joys of a wonderful choice of books.
As an adult, this transformed into a delight for historical novels, family sagas, adventure, science fiction and fantasy - or a mixture of these genres. I prefer a novel to contain some romance, even in a thriller or mystery, and a happy ending - that must be the fairy tale influence! I am miserable if I don't have a good book to read, and having access to a free lending library means that I have never been limited by finances. In addition, I try new authors all the time, knowing that if I don't like the books, I can always take them back.
The library is a wonderful source of non-fiction as well. Since Melody for LIzzie was first published, I have written two more novels set in the early twentieth century, covering between them the years from the end of the first world war to the early nineteen sixties. Factual books are the core of my research material. I do use the internet for some of my research, especially websites that have people's own memories. But when I'm researching a novel, my first step is to borrow factual books from the library, about the history, the people, the areas they live in, and their jobs. The notes I make from these books provide a solid ground for my research.
The world is a different place for today's children. They grow up with technology - I often see toddlers playing with their mothers' mobile phones. Young people all work with computers at school. So books have become less important to them. It has been surmised that books might even become obsolete. After all, we have ebooks now. Do we really need print books? That's another question to ponder.
It's a unique experience, entering a physical library, being able to walk round, look at the books, pick them off the shelves, and browse. People learn in different ways. Having a physical experience exploring books is one way of inspiring curiosity and whetting the appetite. Sitting at a computer screen is a much more contained activity.
There have always been books on shelves in my home, as I was growing up and still the same today. For a child who has no books in the home, and no library in their school, a regular session in a local library might just ignite a spark of curiosity for discovery. If the library is available for homework and within walking distance of the home, how many more imaginations could be lit up by an environment full of books and other people who love books. Not to mention the other types of material that the library has to offer - CDs, audiobooks, leaflets, information, a helpful librarian - and computers themselves, for those who don't have their own at home.
The library is a place for an elderly person to walk to, exchange a few words with other people, and take home a different world in which to immerse themselves. My grandmother had failing sight and welcomed the first large print books, which I have only ever seen in a library. If someone doesn't have a car, doesn't have the money to buy books, has no computer, and finds it difficult to afford regular trips on public transport, then they will lose a precious resource from their world.
I am lucky, as I have a car and will be able to drive to the nearest library when our little branch closes down. But for others this amenity will be lost forever. Surely we could find a way to keep our libraries available by reducing their opening times, or bringing in some volunteers. Once they are gone, I doubt we will ever see them open again, and it will be a sad loss.