Libraries should not be about nostalgia – my kids have taught me that

They are portals to other worlds; supporting and funding them is supporting the future, not the past

David Quantick
Friday 25 January 2019 18:58
Comments
For children a library is a colourful, living experience, all about potential, and roads not yet taken
For children a library is a colourful, living experience, all about potential, and roads not yet taken

When I was a child, I lived in libraries.

There were books for children my age, books I’d go and investigate that clearly weren’t for children my age – science fiction and comedy and horror, all of which seemed to be crammed with what I’d later realise was filth and smut – as well as encyclopaedias, magazines, street directories and parish registers, because a good library is as voracious as its users and absorbs everything printed it can.

Libraries contain worlds and I was a space traveller. In Plymouth, where I first stepped through the doors, there was a reading scheme which culminated in being given a small embossed shield by Patrick Moore, who was nearly crushed to death by overexcited children at the handing-out ceremony.

Later, as a teenager I found not only the filth and smut but also writers whose names you never heard on television – BS Johnson, Caryl Brahms and SJ Simon. Authors whose work I love still and who influenced my own writing.

None of the above is new to anyone who loves reading: one of the difficulties about writing about libraries is how much you end up dwelling on the past.

I have to be frank and say that for many years my library usage tailed off dramatically after I left home. In the parts of London where I spent my 20s and 30s, libraries were small and unwelcoming and couldn’t compete with the sheer glut of books available in bookshops. Libraries were somehow part of the past.

But now I’m a parent, and I live in Hastings, a town whose library has just been refurbished, with a very good children’s department. My children love it, and run free like deranged bibliophiles, grabbing what they can and demanding that I pull books down from higher shelves for them.

Cambridge's Library Tower: exhibition featuring banned books will open to public

Their tastes are not narrow, despite a powerful dinosaur obsession, and for them a library is a colourful, living experience, all about potential, and roads not yet taken.

Libraries are portals to other worlds; supporting and funding them is supporting the future, not the past. Without them, we’re just rooted in the present, watching lives go by that we never got to live.

David Quantick is a writer whose credits include The Day Today, The Thick of It and Veep. His latest novel GO WEST (Unbound) is out now.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in