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Libraries are my guilty secret

Why have I got a picture of my books in an article about libraries? Read on.

When the austerity measures imposed on local government started to kick in, in the UK, (yes, I've been brewing this post for a while) people were campaigning against the closure of libraries. Libraries are probably viewed as an optional extra, whereas things like rubbish collection aren't. I was glad the people were campaigning because it made me less guilty about the fact that I love libraries.

When I was a child the library assistant at my local library, who knew me because I was friends with her son, gave me the adult allowance of six library cards, instead of the children's allowance of three. I was so happy about that.

When I was a teenager I started collecting coins. One of the things I particularly liked about this hobby was that I could store them in little envelopes, which were like those long drawers full of the tickets from books, that library assistants would go through when they were looking for your books, using that particular walking actions with their fingers. I too could riffle through my little coin envelopes in the same way.

Why do I like libraries? Partly it's because I don't like owning books. I like books, but I don't like owning books. If you came to our house and saw our tall Billy bookcase with double-parked books, and the other Billy with a couple more shelves of them you might wonder if I'm being truthful. Probably over half of them are ones I owned before I got married, or have been given since, so even though they're not all "mine", that's still quite a lot. One of my sons challenged me the other day as to why we couldn't get rid of some of them. I started going through them. "That was a present, and that one, and that one, and that one. That one has a reply from an author I wrote to. [Bill Bryson - what a lovely man.] That one's really interesting." And so it goes on. OK, so apart from those books, I don't like owning books.

It probably stems from when I was at University and my books would come and go in cardboard boxes, which were heavy and bulky. I only really want to do that with books that are worth it. Also, very few books are worth a reread, so I'm happy to borrow them. So what makes me feel guilty? It's because I know that authors get a tiny amount of money when I borrow one. However, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell published an article in The Guardian recently, Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming, so while authors and illustrators are championing them I'll feel less guilty.


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