This photo features the Small Child, the source of many of my stories over on my SWB page. Here she is dressed as Mog, for our school Halloween disco. ‘Mog isn’t very scary, ‘ she said, when she chose her outfit, ‘but I just really like him.’ I really like him too. When I was small, probably about 4 or 5, my mum took me to to our local Carnegie library in Bangor. I know what book I wanted, but all I could remember was that it involved a cat and a chimney. Perhaps Mog wasn’t as popular back in 1983 and my details were scant, but I recall the librarian taking ages with me, searching for it on the computer and finally locating it. I was ever so pleased.
After university I stopped going to libraries for a while, and only started again when I joined a book group, and I realised it could save me a lot of expense. It’s no exaggeration to say that going back was a revelation. If you haven’t been to a library in a while, you forget the joy therein. I trotted down to the Cregagh Road library the other day, to return a few books the children had borrowed. I found myself drawn to the ‘Body Mind and Spirit’ shelf, and there was ‘Option B’ by Sheryl Sandberg, which my pal Christine Watson from Training Matchmaker had recommended. I could have swallowed the book whole, and have since bought my own copy so I can highlight and underline things without worrying about it becoming dogeared and tatty. I’ve needed that book in my life for years, but just didn’t know.
And that’s the delightful thing about libraries. They lead you to unexpected delights, because you can take a chance on a book without making any costly mistakes. My kids love going, and in fact had a good rant at Ormeau parkrun one Saturday, because they were too wet and soggy to go anywhere besides the bath. ‘WE WANT TO GO TO THE LIBRARY!’ they wailed, causing a right rumpus. Well, I suppose there’s worse things to be upset about.
I chatted with Jackie Fraser from Belfast City Council on Monday, and she mentioned The 5 Steps to Well-Being, outlined in the Council’s plan to enhance lives and promote good mental health. Two of these steps are connecting with others and lifelong learning. Where better place to start than your local library?
We need libraries in our lives, and we need to convince our government to invest in this, the most essential of resources. We know that GP’s are now diagnosing loneliness as an illness, particularly with older people. Libraries provide a hub where folk can congregate, read the papers, or join a book group. In the Ormeau library I know there is free tea and coffee on a Monday. As my Do One Thing today I therefore signed a petition that I saw the novelist Patrick Gale had put on Twitter. I then e-mailed my local MP and asked her to draw attention to cuts to library funding in parliament. It would be lovely if you could take a minute and do the same. You can do so here.
Thanking you all greatly.