A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
All through my childhood, I went to the same library. I had some books of my own, but I was a high speed reader (I read the whole of the Lord of the Rings one weekend when I was ten) and was always hungry for more stories.
I knew the layout and the shelves of that library as well as my own bedroom. I knew where all the books suitable for my age group were, and I’d read most of them more than once. I knew where all the unsuitable books were as well, and I’d read most of those too.
There was the slight hazard that one of the librarians was ten foot tall, with snakes for hair, and could turn people to stone, (I was a small, shy child who read a lot of mythology, so it’s possible my memory of that particular librarian isn’t entirely accurate.) but on the whole the library was a close approximation to paradise. Given the chance, I’d have brought along my sleeping bag and moved in.
Eventually, I moved to live in other cities, and there were other libraries through the years. My current local library plays a key role in our area. People go there to borrow both books and audio books. Small children go there to weekly sessions, where they sit on the floor and listen to a librarian read them stories. Those hunting for work go there to use computers to make job applications online. Assorted groups use the meeting room for things like poetry appreciation, a readers circle, creative writing, and learning basic maths and English.
But libraries are under threat today. A horrifying number have closed already. My current local library has had drastic staff cuts over the last few years, and its users are watching nervously for the next ominous sign of reduced opening hours.
Four years ago, when my debut book, Earth Girl, was published, I was delighted to discover it was on the shelves of my childhood library. No, not just delighted, I was ecstatic and hovering about a foot above the floor. Authors talk about the thrill of seeing their book on the shelves in a bookshop, but this was far better.
My fourth book, Telepath, is out in ebook already and will be out in paperback within the next few weeks. That paperback won’t appear on the shelves of my childhood library, because they can’t afford to buy new books any longer, and there’s a danger that the shelves themselves will be vanishing soon.
Libraries everywhere have either been swept away by a wave of budget cuts, or are hovering on the brink of destruction. I’m living in fear of the day I hear that the doors of my childhood library have closed for the last time. That will be like hearing of the death of an old friend.
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Janet Edwards is the author of the Earth Girl science fiction trilogy (Earth Girl, Earth Star, and Earth Flight). Earth Girl was an American Library Association Teens’ Top Ten Title. Janet’s latest book, Telepath, is the first in a new series. Find out more about Janet and her books at www.janetedwards.com.