Tag Archives: quality of life

Carola’s story

I would live in a library if I could. I love the cathedral-like hush — a temporary reprieve from the noise and insanity of the crazy world outside its doors. People wearing thoughtful expressions as they peruse the shelves, or sit quietly leafing through books as though they are on some kind of spiritual journey. It feels so right somehow.

Besides the basic three Rs I don’t believe school taught me much. Text books were out of date before they even reached the classroom and showing initiative by reading books not listed on the curriculum confused the teachers and was frowned upon. So it was during after school hours spent at the local library of wherever my family happened to be living at the time that I educated myself. Geography, history and the sciences were favourite topics, none of which were adequately covered at school, I felt. I filled my own library worth of exercise books with notes. I read about Churchill, the American Civil War, the exploration of space. I devoured books on the
spectacular engineering feats of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was utterly fascinated by the work of Marie Curie in the field of radioactivity. Here was a woman whose achievements would help people all over the globe at a time when it was a man’s world and I was deeply moved. I wanted to be a writer and hoped that all this knowledge I was acquiring on my own terms would one day aid me in my endeavours.

I moved to London in search of a job. Not being on the electoral roll there I was unable to join a library anywhere in the city. It would be no exaggeration to say I was devastated. I was like a butterfly with broken wings. Unable to explore new subjects on a mere whim or do research that was not work-related it felt like part of my life was missing.

Relocating to the north of Scotland in 1995 was the best decision I ever made. Becoming a member of Orkney Library & Archive was as easy as buying a pint of milk. I felt absurdly proud when I was handed my new library card. Founded in 1683 it is the oldest free library in Scotland, but it is also the most innovative and forward-thinking example of its kind I know. In the current economic climate when so many libraries are under threat it has a healthy membership and the services it offers are hard to beat. From Bookbug sessions for the youngest members of the community and storytelling for slightly older children to the Book Box service for housebound folk. There are regular reading groups which meet monthly at the library as well as the recently established online one in association with Faber and Faber. Named
appropriately At Home with Faber the publisher provides the books which members discuss on a designated blog and Twitter from the comfort of their homes.

Held every two years, Discovery Week began as a way of attracting new members, but has proved popular with regular library users too. During this period CDs and DVDs can be borrowed free of charge, there is a book sale and events for children. This year the week was launched with a storytelling event. Throughout the five days Radio Orkney broadcast its daily show in front of a live audience from the library foyer and on the Saturday two popular Scottish crime writers held a writing seminar that
was both entertaining and informative.

Libraries are very special places and vital to the wellbeing of communities. Please let’s do all we can to ensure their survival.

Wendy’s story

I am 77 years old and have been a library user from a very young age, in various parts of England.
I have helped with mobile libraries and also with a hospital library on a voluntary basis taking trolley loads of books to patients.
At present I am a member of my local “Friends of the library” and also the reading group held in the library.
I cannot imagine life without libraries, the librarians are real friends and so helpful.
There are also lots of other activities at my local library, reading days for young children and their Mothers, evening events with local authors, help with Computers, to name a few.
My local library is used extensively and our small town could not manage without it.

Nick’s story

I’m a special needs teacher in the London Borough of Harrow. Each week, I take groups to Harrow central library. The students benefit hugely in terms of

  • accessing resources
  • building their literacy
  • developing life skills
  • interacting with the public
  • travel training

The library staff are wonderfully supportive.The whole experience is phenomenally positive.

Nick, Shaftesbury High School

Rosemary’s story

Cannot imagine life without the library. I have been using our local library since it was housed in a van which arrived once a week. Now in a small but well organised building our library is well stocked with books, video books, very well presented. Cheerful and warm, a tiny seating area with coffee, special area for babies/toddlers once a week and so much more…  Run by several hard working staff and helped by older volunteers when possible.
Even a special book trolley for people like me who cannot carry books easily, especially when I was using crutches.

This is a special ‘Thank you’ to them.

Anne’s story – a life in libraries

Only child in an impoverished home, never enough to eat, no new clothes or holidays.  But the library was free!  My parents were readers, so was I.  By the age of nine, in 1940, I had already decided on my future career: I would be a librarian.  At grammar school I began to set my sights on becoming a university librarian, but this was never to be.  Family need meant I had to leave school at sixteen.  I was heartbroken.  So naturally I applied to the local public library and became a junior assistant.  Two years at library school would provide me with qualifications, but that too was denied;  my local authority would not fund it.  Accordingly I set about five years of home study by correspondence, became an Associate of the Library Association but could not be a chartered librarian until I was twenty-three.  By this time I had been given responsibilities and had plenty of experience to offer.  I took a post in charge of children’s and schools libraries in a Lancashire town.  Two years later I married, and again found myself stymied.  My authority would not employ married women.  (Many today don’t believe me, but that was the case in 1957.) Heartbreak number two.

End of career?  Happily, no.  In 1971 life began again.  A new sixth form centre was being built as the boys and girls grammar schools united.  Arriving for my first day’s work, I found an array of empty bookshelves, a large study area covered with tarpaulin sheeting and tea chests full of several thousand books selected for sixth form use by both schools.  “Where do I start?” I exclaimed.  “Start there,” said a hastily departing secretary.  A team of students arrived to help.  The books were mostly classified and after sifting by me could be arranged on shelves.  Three weeks later we opened for business.  Three months later I had the books catalogued (card catalogues in those days, of course).

So began the twenty-one happiest years of my life, creating and exploiting an educational library.  It was a liberal education for me too, as I caught daily glimpses into every discipline (well, maybe not maths!) and worked creatively to provide materials to supplement the curriculum on matters such as environmental concern. I took part in the life of the college (as it became), its extra-curricular activities and indeed not a little teaching.  By this time I was a writer and editor and was used as unofficial poet-in-residence.  Seeing me as not quite a tutor, students brought their writings or their troubles to me.  And every year I recruited a new splendid team of student assistants who staffed the issue desk and advised on library policy  –  for me, a wonderful way of keeping young until I retired.  Never a dull moment; every day was different and full of delight.

I was not well paid  –  how many librarians are even today?  But for sheer job satisfaction, no other career can beat it.  Now in retirement I enjoy using my local libraries, including reading groups led by librarians who are keen readers themselves.  I wish them well with all my heart.  Long may they and their service survive and flourish.

Mairwen’s story

Mairwen here, just want to let everybody know what a fantastic library we have in the small Welsh village of Llanbradach in the County borough of Caerphilly. There is something for all ages the children from the nearby school come in singly and with their teachers to learn the delights of reading their are regular demonstrations ie. music, quilting, rugmaking, talks and film shows of the village from the mid 19th C.

Apart from the obvious youngsters working on the computers, us Senior Citizens are given a helping hand if needed. I borrow quite a lot of books and having eclectic tastes I could ask the librarian to order anything from Physics to Philosophy to crime. Always the librarians do their best to obtain them.

We also have our reading circle at the library, since I retired and moved here 5yrs ago I have met and made friends with so many people. I wish everybody could have a library as happy and good as ours.

Philip’s story

Many years ago when I was at a bit of a loose end I visited my local
library with a view to reading something classical, maybe Lawrence or
James or Woolf…finally settling on Joyce…I took out Dubliners, Ulysses
& Finnegans Wake…I’d always been a keen reader but these volumes blew me
away and gave me a love for books I never realised I had…then a while
later I saw an ad for a job at a library on the other side of town,
applied, got the job and eventually worked my way up to Community
Librarian, a job I love.  The satisfaction and advancement one can garner
from reading is no less than fantastic.

Jonic’s story

Mid afternoon last Friday I conducted a catalogue search for books on
literacy to help me prepare a course I’ve been asked to deliver and placed some
reservations.  At 6.30pm that day I received a call from Caerphilly Library
telling me that one of the reserved items was ready for me to pick up.  I
arranged to collect it the following morning.
When I arrived in Caerphilly to pick up my reservation I was told that another
reservation had arrived for me, from Risca.  I can’t fault the pleasant and
cheerful help given by the staff in Caerphilly.  This service has been such a
pleasure to use, as well as being a lifesaver at times.

I first registered with Caerphilly Library in primary school and it has been a
boon to me over the last fifty-umpteen years.  In 1964 I was inspired by example
of the staff there to seek employment in a academic library – absolutely the
best job ever!  Although I worked in several libraries over the years, I now
work in adult education and find it so disappointing that many young people (and
older ones too) would never dream of using a library and find reading ‘boring’.

Thank you, Caerphilly Library staff (in all branches) for all your help and also
for the pleasure I’ve received from using your service over the years.

Helen’s story

I have a job which can be pretty stressful at times. Lots of enquiries,
requests, emails, telephone calls and always a million things to do and sort
out and arrange, plenty of rushing about and jumping around. (Guess what,
I’m a librarian). By lunchtime, I’m exhausted and ready for a break. But I
find it difficult to get away from work if I stay at work–does that make
sense? I don’t seem to be able to switch off while I’m in the building,
mainly because I have to be so switched on all the time. But I find that
unless I get a proper break, by 3pm I’m flagging. Simple tasks seem more
complicated. It’s not a blood sugar thing, or anything like that, it’s just
that my mind needs a quick rest.

So I started to go to the public library in town. Fortunately, it’s less
than a five minute walk. I nip out at the start of my lunch break, and spend
half an hour sitting in the warm, comfy, bustling library. I read a book,
or a newspaper, or just indulge in a bit of people-watching. And after half
an hour, I go back to work, refreshed and ready for the afternoon.

When I’m in the public library, there are children running about with books
and DVDs, people checking books out and in, asking questions, tapping away
on the computers, having soft conversations–and sometimes loud
conversations, learning, reading, experiencing and interacting. There’s
even other people like me, just having a quick break with a good book. It’s
a space like no other, and I value it highly.

I guess I could go into a coffee shop, or go to a park, and sometimes I do.
But the former costs money, and as I live in England it’s usually raining,
so that excludes the latter. The public library is always there, it’s
always warm, there’s always a comfy seat available and it’s free. There’s
no pressure at all. You don’t have to spend anything, and you don’t have to
sit on the floor. (Possibly not the best marketing strategy for libraries

I’ve read lots of the stories on the blog. Some of them are really
uplifting. I know that mine isn’t. But it’s not important. Without my
public library, I’d be tired and stressed every day. It genuinely makes me
better at my job. And that’s why I’m grateful for my public library.

Voices for the library=absolutely brilliant idea. Lots of good luck to you


Kari’s story

I grew up in villages and small towns, with irregular buses and few
shops, none of which sold books. None of the bigger towns nearby had
serious bookshops, either, and I loved books.

My salvation was the library, and especially the library in
Radcliffe-on-Trent, Notts. In memory it was huge — I was junior school
age, and any roomful of books was huge to me. The head librarian
understood little girls who loved to read, and with my mother agreed to
let me use my mother’s tickets to borrow from the adult section. I read
Lord of the Rings and The Ascent of Man, Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist,
Animal Farm and Vanity Fair, and the library always held more exciting
books. Later on — by this time we’d moved to Lutterworth, Leics, where
the library was smaller, I learnt about inter-library loans. The
Lutterworth library tracked down books I wanted for my school history
project — books about Syria and Turkey and Lebanon. It found me the
missing volumes of series I loved by Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny.
I learnt to scan for yellow-spined Gollancz hardbacks and to browse the
non-fiction section for other kinds of stories — biographies and
adventures and histories. Most of the books I read weren’t in the small
bookshops I had access to, and I couldn’t have afforded them anyway.

Then I went to university and discovered the joys of access to a
copyright library. Over the years, the Cambridge University Library has
kept me abreast of my field, and let me read books I’d missed or never
been able to find, has, through its long shelves, led me to scholars and
ideas I might never have known, and been the vital foundation to my own
non-fiction writing. In 2003, it tracked down for me a copy of a rare,
self-published memoir in French, from a library the other side of the

Libraries hold up the lamps by whose light we expand and grow,
grant us glimpses into other lives, support our skills and our
understanding, speak across distance and time and race and culture. They
hold the keys to civilisation. Let’s not let them fail.
Dr Kari Maund