I’ve lost count of the writers who also credit libraries as the reason they are where they are now. Joanna Cannon, author of the Sunday Times bestselling debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep told me, ‘Everything I have done, and everything I am, is down to that brown, cardboard library ticket.’ Award-winning Young Adult author, Juno Dawson, states that, ‘Bingley Library moulded me into a writer. Working class, transgender kids, statistically probably aren’t meant to end up where I have and that’s in part due to the social mobility libraries and reading allowed me.’
On Twitter I asked for stories from people from marginalised backgrounds who wouldn’t be doing what they now are without libraries. Over two hundred deeply moving stories flooded in. Each was unique but many aspects of the stories overlapped, circles within circles, a Venn diagram of the true significance of libraries. Stories came from those who were in care, those from chaotic, poor or abusive households, those who were bullied, those with disabilities or mental health problems, those who were LGBT, those who just needed a place they wouldn’t be turned away from. Though many said that without those loaned books they’d have remained near uneducated or would never have gone to university, many more told me libraries also offered them desperately needed escape, safety and possibility where none existed otherwise.
I wonder, with so many libraries under threat in the UK right now, what will happen to those children for whom libraries might have been their education, inspiration and safe space? What will happen to those kids who, like me long ago, might have used the library as the foundation of the good, purposeful lives they might build given the chance?
I truly believe that the access I had, wherever I was, no matter what stage in my life, saved my life. I would not be here without them. And no, that isn’t something that can be measured on a spreadsheet. It’s real human experience, it’s value still reaped decades later. I simply cannot understand how this national resource, one that is relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of managing a country, could be considered superfluous. And I won’t sit back and just watch as it is purposefully and relentlessly dismantled.