It’s an honour and a pleasure to welcome author Emma Davies to be my guest on Being Anne today. Now where shall I start in introducing Emma? Well, maybe I should start as she did, with the wonderful Letting in Light – almost 200 reviews now, mostly five stars, including mine – which was followed this year by the sequel Turn Towards The Sun, a gorgeous read that I reviewed here. Then there are the Tales from Appleyard – I’ve only read (and loved) Merry Mistletoe so far (review here), but there are now three more, with the latest, Blackberry Way, released only last week. I’m really looking forward to catching up.
But Emma’s not here today to talk about her books – instead she’s talking about a subject very close to her heart. And a subject that really should be close to ours too…
When I first contacted Anne about doing a guest post on her wonderful blog I had suggested that my piece would be about an author talk I was invited to give recently at my local library. However when I sat down to write the post I realised that this wasn’t what I wanted to say at all – this post shouldn’t be about me, but instead about something I care about deeply. Incidentally the talk was a brilliant success, around forty people attended, I enjoyed it hugely, and judging by the feedback so did they, but perhaps that’s something to share another time. Today I just want to leave you with some thoughts on our wonderful libraries themselves.
When I was about seven, the village I lived in was lucky enough to have its own library. A village mind, not a town or a city but a smallish rural village. Even then I think I understood how lucky we were to have this on our doorstep, and how idyllic the setting was. Actually it was only a portacabin, situated at the end of a lane of houses which backed onto open fields, but to me it was the most magical place and even now I can still vividly recall the smell as you pushed open the door. It was a warm, friendly bookish smell that became an intrinsic part of my childhood. I visited the library twice a week after school, and worked my way steadily through the collection of junior fiction. From the delights of The House at World’s End by Monica Dickens to the heady discovery of The Hobbit and worlds not like our own. As I grew older the visits continued until I had outgrown and definitely out read the children’s section and experienced my first thrilling forays into adult reading and the illicit pleasure of Jilly Cooper’s girls: Bella, Imogen, Harriet and Prudence.
My love affair with libraries continued, throughout my adulthood and on into parenthood. I first visited my local library in Church Stretton when we (my husband and our three children) moved to Shropshire. Our youngest daughter was only four months old at the time – she’s now nearly sixteen. It was a weekly treat to visit this beautiful welcoming space and return home with armfuls of books for each of us. I am immensely proud of the fact that our family have all grown up to be avid readers and I know without a shadow of doubt that libraries have played a huge part in this. It meant that we could remain constantly surrounded by books, and I’m sure also inspired me to take up my own writing again.
When I gave up my old career in January 2016 to become a full time writer, I decided almost immediately that having worked with people for many years, moving to a solitary working life would not necessarily be a good thing. So, I decided to keep my eyes open for a casual post that would allow my writing to continue uninterrupted but also provide me with opportunities to leave the house and keep me from becoming a reclusive mad woman. To my delight a post came vacant at the library and I now work there most Saturdays. Our youngest daughter comes with me as volunteer, something she also does after school, and pretty much whenever she can. It’s become like a second home to her. I’m not surprised she loves it as much as I do. It’s a beautiful place, staffed by the most wonderful people, who fill the space with everything a library should be, and that includes much laughter. Our customers are welcomed by their first names, offered tea and coffee if we’re making one, and go home with so much more than books. As one of our older customers remarked only last week – I’ve just told my husband I’m popping out to see my friends and have a giggle. I’ll feel so much better when I get home. I might even manage to choose some books too!
I will be heartbroken when it closes, and it will close. Like so many libraries it’s under threat, and despite the valiant support of our local community the closure is as much to do with political posturing as it is about saving money. It might limp along in one guise or another for a while yet, but like the books themselves that line the shelves, the writing on the page is clear as day. We can quantify how much it costs to pay the staff, and heat our building but I’ve never met an accountant yet who can put a price on inspiration or knowledge, the comfort and escape provided by a good book, the companionship and care that they find in our space, or the happiness and laughter that fills the air within the building every single day it is open. It is quite simply, priceless.
Of course the little village library that I loved so much as a child is long gone, replaced by a housing estate, but it saddens me that in the space of my own lifetime we could see the total demise of community libraries. Perhaps one day our government will see fit to support our libraries once again, but until then please make the most of them while you still can. If you have children, make these special places a part of their lives, as they have been for me. As potential future leaders of our country maybe they might be the ones to make a difference…
Emma, what a gorgeous post – thank you so much… anyone else want to share their memories of libraries and how they shaped their lives?
About the author
After a varied career, Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous (and not necessarily true) anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: ‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty something mother of three.’ Well the job in the design studio didn’t work out but she’s now a forty something mother of three and is happy to report the rest of her dream came true.
After many years as a finance manager she now writes full time, and is far happier playing with words than numbers. She lives with her husband, three children, and two guinea pigs in rural Shropshire where she writes in all the gaps in between real life. It’s a county she adores, her love of its beautiful people and landscapes providing endless inspiration for her books, and in fact the only thing that would make Shropshire more idyllic is if it were by the sea.
Pop over to her website where, amongst other things, you can read about her passion for Pringles and singing loudly in the car. You can also wave to her on Twitter or find her on Facebook (a little more often than is good for her).