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KatGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 06-Feb-14 09:17:07

Why I love libraries

Becoming a writer was beyond Lesley Pearse's wildest dreams, despite her love of books and libraries from early childhood. She tells us her journey to becoming the successful author she is today, and how the likes of Tom Sawyer and Daphne Du Maurier broadened her imagination as a child.

Lesley Pearse

Lesley Pearse

Posted on: Thu 06-Feb-14 09:17:07


Lead photo

Library image from Shutterstock

As a child and in my early teens libraries were escape, from a dragon stepmother who was impossible to please, to a wonderful safe land of fantasy. I was lucky that my local library was a lovely old manor house, and so on Saturdays and school holidays I would curl up on a window seat and read all day. I gulped books down and often chose another one to take home with me for the evening. Today I doubt many parents would believe a child if she said she'd been in the library all day!

I worked my way along the shelves trying everything, first Enid Blyton, then Noel Streatfield and so many books set in boarding schools, or fantastic adventure tales like Jack London and Call of the Wild. I was thrilled when the kindly librarian suggested I was old enough for adult books, but perhaps my first choice on adult shelves wasn't quite appropriate for someone of thirteen, as it was a risqué book by Emile Zola!

My narrow little life in London’s Lee Green was widened to the whole world. I knew what the Mississippi River was like from Tom Sawyer, the craggy coast line of Cornwall from Daphne Du Maurier, authors who's names I can no longer remember informed me about Canada, Australia, the tenements of New York, jungles, prairies and war too.

I never once imagined myself becoming a writer. That was even more unreachable than becoming a ballet dancer, an ice skater or an astronaut.

I was always being accused of day dreaming back then, yet I never once imagined myself becoming a writer. That was even more unreachable than becoming a ballet dancer, an ice skater or an astronaut. I chose to be a nursery nurse because I liked children, and I got plenty of chances to read to the ones I took care of, and borrowed their parent's books for myself.

Yet it was reading a library book that finally made me wish to put my own ideas into a book. That book was The Thornbirds. I began it one night while feeding my youngest who was a few weeks old. I came to find it was morning, sun coming through the window, baby fast asleep at empty breast and I'd been reading all night. I thought if I could just write something that would affect other people in such a way I would feel utterly fulfilled.

Success didn't come quickly, it took years of persistence until my first book Georgia was published, but one thing I can say is that it was all those early years in libraries that made it happen. I had so many images of places, battles, tragedies and triumphs stuck in my head. I only had to tap into them for inspiration.

Lesley Pearse's new novel, Survivor, is published by Michael Joseph on the 13 February 2014, RRP £18.99 in hardback from all good bookshops and Amazon.

Lesley is the first Ambassador for National Libraries Day which takes place on the 8 February.

By Lesley Pearse

Twitter: @LesleyPearse

Mishap Thu 06-Feb-14 10:50:09

Our LA started by abandoning the library van in our outlying village and is now proposing to close the library in our nearest town. What a shot-sighted policy!

What it does still do is supply books for community libraries instead - I run the one in my village hall - it takes place every month at the same time as the farmers' market. Of course the labour is free - i.e. my friend and I volunteering.

Libraries are precious things; they are a mark of civilization and we abandon them at our peril.

Ruby6918 Fri 07-Feb-14 02:10:38

i am saddened by the lack of enthusiasm that society has for libraries, they are a place to visit, relax, investigate, learn, meet, be alone, i feel that modern technology is also to blame, e books, kindles etc, i still like the feel of of a book in my hands and to turn the pages of a book with my grandchild, me and my children had a routine we went to the library every monday and thursday to change our books, ot was an afternoon out, many happy memories

henetha Fri 07-Feb-14 10:59:06

Libraries have been one of the most enduring pleasures of my life.
I've been a continuous member of the Devon Library Service for 70 years,
joining when I was six. I soon learned that reading was, for me, an escape from a bleak childhood and a doorway into a land where no-one
could get at me. The adventures of Enid Blyton's characters, the much
loved March family in Little Women, the magic of Peter Pan, I loved them all. Reading also started my love of travel, learning about exotic destinations which at that time I never dreamt I would one day see.
(not all of them, sadly, but I have been lucky enough to visit a few).
Right through adulthood, parenthood and now into old age, libraries are a huge comfort, a source of knowledge (in spite of the internet as well these days) and a place of peace.
We are lucky here, we have a mobile library, a small village library, plus
an excellent, recently refurbished one just five miles away.
I own a Kindle these days, and like it. It has it's place. But I love the feel and smell of real books as well as the words.
Also, I can borrow a DVD for a week at a very reasonable charge, also CD's, as well as using their computers if mine is behaving badly.
And I can simply go and sit there and browse the books when I feel like it.
To me, the library is a place of refuge from the busy world.
I simply love libraries.

NanKate Fri 07-Feb-14 22:05:45

What a lovely description Henetha. I too love libraries.

Yesterday I went into the new library in High Wycombe, Bucks, and I am sad to say it was deadly quiet, not in a calm way but with a lack of visitors. Perhaps on the next floor up where all the computers are it could have been busier.

This is the second time I have visited this particular library in the last few months and it was very quiet then .

If we don't all make an effort to use their facilities I can see many more libraries closing. How sad.

henetha Sun 09-Feb-14 10:47:32

Oh, I so agree NanKate. The decline in the number of people using libraries is very sad, and also plays a big part in the decision to close
some libraries.
They are such a wonderful amenity that would be terrible to lose them.
Use it or lose it, seems to very much apply in this case.
Good wishes.

annemac101 Mon 10-Feb-14 12:13:39

I worked in my local library for years until the council closed it down. Not enough people were using it but for the ones who did it was also a hub,a meeting place for the elderly, a safe place for children to go after school and wait for working parents,it served so many functions.
I loved the library of my childhood, a large imposing building with the smell of books inside. I read my way through Catherine Cookson's children's books and every one of her adult's books too. Lesley is one of my favourite writers,having read all her books I'm reading her new one and it's shaping up to be a great read too.

rockgran25 Mon 10-Feb-14 18:13:15

Books have been a huge part of my life and I have been a library member since childhood. I also have a Kindle now but still have books from the local library. We are very lucky to still have this wonderful service and I am glad to say that our local library is always busy. They offer so much now, you can hire a DVD or CD they have computer facilities for those with no internet at home. The children's library is amazing and they have special events for the children during school holidays. We also have a mobile library and volunteers take books to retirement homes and Care homes. They also have leaflets and local information and much more.
I love modern technology and use apps on my mobile phone, sat nav, computers etc. but if we do not use our libraries we will loose this amazing facility.

Mishap Mon 10-Feb-14 18:42:14

The library van was a wonderful village asset. People met there and exchanged news; helped each other by collecting books from the home bound and getting them new ones; children sat on the floor and immersed themselves in a pile of books. It was one of a small number of hubs that oiled the community wheels, as well as providing books to order, to enjoy, to study.

This has now been stopped and, as I said above, replaced by a volunteer-run library at the monthly farmers' market in the village hall. I am one of the people running this and we have a steady customer-base of mainly middle-aged ladies and also children, who hop across the road after school and get stuck into the books. We only issue about 30 books a month, but it provides a real service to those core clientele, who, again, borrow books for the housebound, and we all have a good literary chat and recommend books to each other. I really do hope that this service too does not get the chop. I do not think that the council realise its value.