Library Love

Today is – as I’m sure you already know – National Libraries Day in the UK. It’s a chance for us all to celebrate our wonderful library service, and remind Certain Adults Who Should Know Better why they’re needed.

Duke Humfrey's LibraryWhile I was writing Big Woo! I also worked at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, giving guided tours of its oldest reading room. Duke Humfrey’s Library opened in 1488 and has been in use ever since, although most modern students never use it for their studies (the books are so valuable you aren’t allowed to take a pen inside, only pencil!).  I wish these photos captured anything close to the atmosphere in there; the centuries of whispered ideas hanging in the air. Duke Humfrey's LibraryWhen you give guided tours, you learn a sort of script, and say the same things in the same order over and over again – but I could never get bored of walking into that room.

The tourists always loved being shown a ‘real’ ancient book, with a chain attaching it to the shelf. In the fifteenth century, books were phenomenally valuable; sometimes only one or a handful of copies of a text existed at all, so the librarians kept them chained up, reserved for the use only of the scholars of the university.

Chained booksYour local public library probably isn’t as fancy and romantic as Duke Humfrey’s. The books inside won’t be the only copies ever made, worth millions of pounds. But that’s a wonderful thing. Public libraries are democratic places. You don’t need to be a scholar to get help from a librarian. You don’t need to pass an exam to use their IT facilities, or join a community group. You don’t need lots of money to take away a stack of books twenty high. All you have to do is walk through the door.

And that’s a lot easier to do if your local library remains, you know, open.

What are you doing for National Libraries Day?

You can find a map with all today’s events here.

21 thoughts on “Library Love

  1. gr8 post!
    I’m not usre what i’ll do
    Nut I am going to the library today!
    Libraies are the best plave to go when you want some piece and quiet with a gr8 book to keep you company!

  2. Morning Susie! 😀

    I’m going over to the library today to take part in the event they have called Freadom Campain.

    Its sending out the benafits of pubic Librarys. I’ll make sure everyone hears my voice and that Libarys are STILL fun to visit, even if Possil Parks one is small.


    • Brilliant, Laura! It’s the small libraries that are really under threat – when lots of the people they serve (young families, teens, the elderly, people who don’t have pots of money) are exactly the people who can’t easily get to the big city centre ones. Have a great day!

  3. Hi Susie!
    Although I don’t go to the library as often as I’d like to, I can’t imagine life without a library! **Sobs!**
    Anyway, I am in the process of BEGGING my mum to gn to this book day at the Jewish Museum, I mean, who cares if only the activities for 5 year olds have tickets left! (I want to go to the poetry for adults!)
    Happy Library Day! Fab post! XXX

    • I know! If we hadn’t had a library in my town my whole life would’ve turned out differently. And much sadder.

      Happy Library Day to you too – hope you get your wish!

    • That’s what I love so much about libraries: there’s no rule that says you can’t go back again and again!

      My sister and her family used to live in Brent, and I’ve just set a book there (in Kensal Rise, which has now lost its library). Great to hear the campaigning there is still going strong. 🙂

  4. I have a dilemma at hand… although I am head over heels in love with libraries, I’m also trying to be a staunch environmentalist because I’m so worried about climate change. So I want to drive over to my nearest library RIGHT AWAY, but I can’t because it would contribute to my carbon footprint! What should I do??????! I wish I could walk there, but it’s about 5 miles away and with about six books in your bag that’s probably not the most fun you could have. If anyone has a solution, please tell me!

    • What did you decide, Georgie? I’m pretty sure libraries have green credentials – what better form of recycling can you imagine than having hundreds of people all reading the same copy of a book? 🙂

      • Eventually, when my mum went out shopping she bought me a book made from recycled paper. So I sort of compromised! But next time, I think you’re right – I’ll go to the library and remember that it IS green to “recycle” a book!

  5. I loved reading this, escpecially learning about the chain – really fascinating stuff. I also loved seeing the picture which evoked so much for me. My husband had the privilege of being able to look at original manuscripts in his school library as there were some famous authors there. I am always very envious when he talks of it. It’s something that he’s never taken for granted. Thank you, Susie, for making me stop, think and remember about libraries today.
    Michelle Misra

    • Thanks, Michelle – great to see you here (and look forward to seeing more of you soon ;)).

      A school library with original manuscripts sounds pretty impressive! I used to work in the exhibition room at the Bodleian sometimes too, surrounded by illuminated early books and handwritten manuscripts. The pay was rubbish but it was an amazing job.

  6. I love libraries and hate that they are closing down 😦 I live in Ireland so I couldn’t participate in National Libraries Day, but I hope all those who did enjoyed it!

  7. Nice to see the picture of Duke Humfrey! I used to work there… yes, really work there, in the times when you could just go upstairs and pull a book dating from 1632 off the shelf… ah, those were the days… 🙂

    Jane (librarian in real world)

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