I visit my local library about once a week, usually with my children in tow. I value my local library because: a) the librarians don't mind if my youngest one runs around b) they have handy laminated bookmarks with reading suggestions c) it is a more culturally enriching experience for my children than anything else my local town centre has to offer and d) I love to browse, and will always come home with an unexpected title.
Libraries, as most parents know, are fantastic places. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than to hang out in the library, read some stories with the kids, then, while they browse the DVDs ("no you can't take any home, take a book, they're free") you have a sneaky browse amongst the parenting titles ("How to turn your picky eater into a glutton" "Miracle cures for baby insomnia" etc) or better still, the fiction section for a thick novel than can easily be read in five minute blasts (One Day by David Nicholls or anything by Maggie O' Farrell).
Only the time-poor but financially rich seem not to 'get' libraries. (And even they will retire one day, and finally feel the need for a library card). For the rest of us mere mortals, and booklovers, they are a place of sanctuary and inspiration.
I once met uber librarian Nancy Pearl, who is well known (and a bit controversial lately) in the States, but unknown this side of the pond. She is so famous that she has an action figure modelled on her ("complete with shushing action") - see above. Nancy, like most librarians, is a prolific reader, who spills over with enthusiasm about books and with recommendations. Unlike most librarians she went a bit further than laminated bookmarks: she's written a string of books about books - with mini reviews and enough reading recommendations to last you til the next millenium.
Listening to Nancy Pearl is a reminder of the talents that librarians have that they do not often shout about - they know a lot about books. (Here's another reason they are great). In the current climate I think it's really important that we show that we value our libraries. This Saturday, February 4th, is National Libraries Day, and a good opportunity to do just that.
If you live on the north side of Manchester (or beyond) why not visit Bury Library on Saturday at 1.30pm for an afternoon of book-talk and readings? New author Emma Jane Unsworth will be there, and Jenn Ashworth (who apparently was "enjoying a career as a prison librarian when she gave up the glamour for the long hard slog of life as a full time writer"). Librarian and reader Jane Mathieson will join them in conversation about writing, reading and how public libraries support both activities.
Alternatively, why not simply support your local library by popping in? Find a librarian, tell them the name of a favourite book, and ask them to recommend something else you might like. Prepare to be amazed.
Places at Bury Library's event are free but space is limited, so please book with Bury Library on 0161 253 5872 or with Alison Bond McNally on firstname.lastname@example.org