This week, I went to Edinburgh’s Central Library. Surrounded by shelves filled with books from the floor to the ceiling, I sat and listened to young authors aged 7-11 read their own work that had made them finalists in the Edinburgh Green Pencil Competition. Over 1000 children in Edinburgh had entered the competition, and over 100 of those entries I was given to read and shortlist to ten for the final judges panel. Out of my ten, two were highly commended, another two were also finalists, and one had a brother who was a finalist.
It was an incredible way to celebrate Book Week Scotland, to see these young kids get such a confidence boost. Plus there were some awesome cupcakes to be had!
I’m not actually a member of the City of Edinburgh libraries anymore. I never have time to finish the books I take out, and sometimes used to forget I hadn’t taken them back until I got a letter about the fines I owed for my tardiness of returning said library books. Now I’m working on creating my own library of books. But I still remember getting my first library card when I was a wee girl, and the joy I had learning from the books in my local library. Many people this week are writing love letters to their favourite libraries. This is mine…
Dear McDonald Road Library,
I am so glad you still exist, and have fond memories of visiting you at least once a week with my Nana when I was a little girl. I remember being taken to visit you with my primary school class and your librarians teaching us how to search for books on computers (which were such a novelty in the early 90s…the internet was yet to come!). I remember how you would put on special themed events so we could find books and learn about food and music from all over the world. And I remember how as more people from all sorts of places in the world arrived in our little patch of Edinburgh, you grew sections of books in many different languages for all ages.
I was a book nerd who loved to learn, and often school simply didn’t have enough to quench my thirst to learn….NOW! When school didn’t make the cut, your library always had a book on hand to bridge the gap. When I wanted to learn ballet dancing, you had a book which taught me about how to take care of ballet shoes, put my hair in a ballet bun, the five positions and barre exercises. I would put the book on the toilet seat as I practiced in my grandparent’s bathroom, using their towel rail as a ballet barre. When I wanted to learn how to play recorder, I managed to get hold of one with pocket money and take out books that taught me how to play it. And even when I wanted to learn about what the kids were talking about in the playground because some of their Mums had given them ‘the talk’ you even had books about that in the children’s section too. You taught me about water and science. You taught me about astronomy and the stories of the constellations. You taught me about Greek mythology, the ancient Egyptians and then there were all the books of the authors I loved. I could be freaked out by Point Horror, dream of what life would be like living in California with the Sweet Valley Twins, wonder if I could have my own business like girls in the Babysitter’s Club, climb up the Faraway Tree and see what magical lands were up there or solve mysteries with the Five Find-Outers, or delve into a book about a girl that seemed more like me and the girls I knew only she was a creation of Jacqueline Wilson.
If I close my eyes, I can still hear the sound of the wooden and glass doors swinging open and shut (one door to enter, another to exit). I remember the fun of the days when you’d sell off old library books and being excited to find stories about girls who were Brownies like me! I can still smell that unique aroma of polish and books which felt so comforting. The moment the scent hit my nostrils I felt safe and at home.
The only annoying part was having to stay quiet (a challenge when you are a loud chatterbox like me).
So all this to say, thank you McDonald Road library…for teaching me, and giving me resources and space to learn. And especially for being a special sacred space filled with books tucked away in my childhood memories.
Much love from an ex-member who probably still has outstanding fines from when she was 12. (please forgive me?)