Please sir, I want some more.’
You may be unsurprised to hear I’ve been reading Oliver Twist, inspired, no doubt, by the fact there’s a statue of its author, Charles Dickens, in Portsmouth now.
The first classic novel I ever read was Great Expectations, by the same author, which I got out of the school library when I was in my early teens.
That’s the great thing about libraries – you go in wanting the latest Judy Blume, or at least you did when you were young in the 90s, and you come out with a weighty tome and a burgeoning love for the English language instead.
A good friend of mine likes to tell me I must have been born with a book in my hand, because I’ll always have a novel on the go. My mother assures me it wasn’t the case, but as she’s also often found with her nose buried in the latest thriller, she may well be fibbing.
Either way, it wasn’t long before I was taking so many books out of Waterlooville library that I needed my own card.
In my family, being without a book is cause for mild palpitations, so thank goodness for the mobile library.
What a fantastic idea – a lorry, lined with books, delivering them to the people who needed them and couldn’t get to the nearest library.
Amazon eat your heart out.
But now, with the advent of e-readers and the internet, fewer people are visiting the libraries, and even less are using the mobile ones.
So Hampshire County Council wants to close one in four to save cash, including the one I used as a child.
I understand the reasoning, but it’s such a shame that a lorry full of imaginary worlds, of knowledge and facts, should be binned.
There should be greater numbers of libraries, including mobile services, not fewer, for who delves into their Kindle or whatever for Jilly Cooper and comes out with Tess of the d’Urbervilles instead?
I’m not even half the writer Dickens was, but I’m with Oliver Twist when it comes to libraries: ‘Please sir, I want some more.’