I took my mum shopping this morning. Not unusual. I spent most of my time announcing to anyone who would listen (or indeed anyone who I deemed a captive audience - checkout assistants, fellow queue members, bank workers etc), that :
SATURDAY 4th FEBRUARY IS NATIONAL LIBRARIES DAY here in the UK.
I got a few funny looks, but mostly support from people who said how much they'd miss their library if it was no longer there for them. If just a few go to their library this Saturday and borrow their limit of books it must surely send out a message that we want and need our libraries.
What is the day all about and why should we support it?
The day is devoted to all types of libraries, library users, staff and supporters. There are celebrations and events organised up and down the country. We are being encouraged to go and see what a wide array of services are on offer - from book loans and homework clubs to advice on how to start a business and how to get online. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are readings by well known authors. My personal favourite, Julia Donaldson, will be at Canning Town Library. Elsewhere there are treasure hunts and quizzes and Chinese New Year dragon-themed activities. All this fun for free!
As a children's writer I believe passionately in libraries. Take your child along and enjoy the atmosphere as you read your books there. Fill your ticket with books to take home - they're all free! Return them and borrow some more. Did you know that research by the National Literacy Trust found that a child who goes to a library is twice as likely to read well as one who does not. That child becomes a literate adult.
And we do need libraries. It's not just about books. They have CDs and DVDs, computers, reference sections, advice on all manner of things, knowledgeable staff ready to help with your queries, book clubs - the list goes on. And, let's face it, in these days of technology usage where you can often go about your business without speaking to a soul, they have real live people to talk to and interact with.
I used to live in a village in North Devon where the nearest town was 15 miles away. The mobile library was so important to the older inhabitants. Not only could they borrow books to escape into during each week, they also had a treasured friend in the librarian who chatted with them on every visit.
Please go along and show support for your local library this Saturday - and many more days to come!
Find out more about National Libraries Day at http://www.nationallibrariesday.org.uk