Saturday, 22 January 2022

The Library

 From a very early age a place of both refuge and information for me was the local library. From either of the two places that I lived in in Sheerness up until my early twenties, it was never more than fifteen minutes away.

Books did not exist in our household when I first became aware of them when I was around six or seven, we were a poor household with numerous tensions and unhappiness and so once I discovered the library I spent quite a lot of time there in it's sheltering warmth. It began a literary thirst for knowledge that has never diminished to this, my 75th year, despite all the other internet options. The only thing that has changed in recent years is the source of those books, these days I always buy them. As my age increased into nine, ten, eleven, twelve, so the amount of time that I could be found there also increased. I discovered and devoured Enid Blyton's the Famous Five and my all time favourite book, the "Wind in the Willows". By accident I discovered the early books of David Attenborough, where as a young man, he described his early excursions abroad to foreign countries to catch and cage and bring back to England many unseen birds and animals. By the time that I was around twelve years old I was already exploring the marshes near to my house and regularly looked to the library for natural history books that identified and described the kind of wildlife that I was seeing. As a result, in 1959, I came across information in their well thumbed Natural History section, about the Kent Ornithological Society and joined it as an under-18 member and remain a member to this day. Around that time I also came across "The Eye of the Wind" Peter Scott's early autobiography and I was hooked, I wanted so much to be able to emulate the kind of naturalist that he was at that time, and subsequently continued to be, he was easily my first hero.

As I progressed into my early teens, my association with the library never diminished, it always remained a comforting place where I could hide for several hours each week. My books to lend might of expanded to include detective and mystery ones but they also rarely deviated from my two constant hobbies, natural history and gardening. Then, as I approached and entered my early twenties, I discovered the library's upstairs Reading Room, until then the place that I associated as the place where only senior members sat around, talking in whispers and looking very knowing. There I first tried to emulate them by reading "posh" papers like The Times and The Guardian, papers that reported things in depth that I never saw in my Daily Mirror, oh yes, I was smugly moving ahead of my peers, or so I thought. Finally, that led me to explore the contents of the locked glass cabinets, where a great treasure trove of local history literature was stored, I was enthralled, places that I passed by every day now took on new meanings. 

Today, I buy all the books that I read, I haven't lent a book from the library for probably thirty odd years but I still visit it for my family and historical research, it still has that special place in my heart.


  1. Great memories, Derek. How wonderful that your library was/is there all those years you needed it! I remember a window seat in my local library that as a kid I loved to sit in and read. My other favorite place to read was in a tree on the school playground - a big oak with low, fat limbs. These days most of my books are ebooks that I buy or borrow from a library. Physical books don't fare well in this climate - plus shipping them takes more time than I have patience for - and the peripheral neuropathy in my fingertips makes it difficult to hold an actual book. I am so happy that so many books are available electronically. Still, I do miss a physical book on occasion.

  2. Yes Wilma, I think that libraries were important places for children of our ages, places where we could escape to and read about the great wide world that existed outside our own little spheres.