Love your library in 2016

Hello, fellow creators.

And a Happy New Year to you all. May 2016 be a year of positive change, if change is what you want.

Last time, I mentioned, slightly more than en passant, that I was giving up my job at the end of last year. And so, I sit here, on a Thursday afternoon, at my desk at home, writing this. I do have some goals in mind, and will be working towards them. Chief among them is to expand and improve Squatting Toad, so watch out for that.

What was that about libraries? Well, I don’t want to work at home all the time, too many distractions, and I wondered where to find a distraction-free environment in the local area, that doesn’t cost anything at the point of use. In other words, not a coffee shop. Too much risk of buying cake and sitting next to someone making a life-changing business deal very loudly at the next table. (Both of those are true – sort of.) Turning the clock back to my student days, I donned my wee backpack and walked the half hour to my local main library branch. Yes, exercise too!

I walk through the sliding doors and the smell immediately transports me back twenty-five years. It’s not the aroma of books, I don’t know what it is, maybe just an old building smell, but I am suddenly in my final year of studies again. This turns on my ‘serious’ button and I head straight for the reading room. It’s here I feel an utter fraud. A good couple of decades older than everybody else, and I have neither a laptop nor a fat textbook on my desk. Just me and my notebook and pen. How very 1991.

Back in 1991, though, the shelves of the reading room were filled with reference books. Now there’s just a few ragged copies of Who’s Who an Encyclopaedia Britannica with a 1997 update volume, nothing later, and some music scores. Otherwise, it’s a sad sea of empty shelves. Downstairs in the lending area, there are still lots of books, but the age of many betrays the sad lack of budget to buy new titles. I find a handy sofa and sit and read some poetry for a while.

It remains a great, quiet place to get some thinking done, despite the odd phone going off, something we didn’t have back in ‘my day’. I do feel guilty for deserting the library, though, and have come home to ferret out my library card, so I can go and borrow a book. I feel that shows a level of loyalty and commitment.

So, here’s my plea to you all. Go to your local library. Borrow a book or DVD, ask the librarian a question, read the newspaper, just USE it. Or maybe risk losing it. I grew up in a town without a bookshop and, when I was a child, the library was a magical place of new and exciting worlds. There’s no reason a library can’t be the same today, even in this ‘just Google it’ age. Go consult the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Let it get dog-eared with use.

I know I said that the library is free to use, and it is, but we all pay for it through our council tax, so get your money’s worth, and maybe if we all do it, there’ll be more budget thrown the service’s way for books. That would be a positive change for 2016 and I would applaud it.

I’ll be back at the library soon, writing and reading. I can’t think of any place that is a greater testament to creativity, either by making available finished writings, or by being a place of safety in which to bring forth new work.

My next podcast, partly conceived in the library, will be with you soon. Meanwhile, I’m off back there to borrow an improving book.

Wishing you much inspiration.

Mel Byron







Author: squattingtoad

Mel is a comedy writer and performer, with a particular interest in creativity and a cynical interest in the workplace and how its idiosyncrasies (nicest word she could find) can drive us all mad.

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