I donated two copies of my debut novel, The Seven Letters, to my local library. This small, exceptionally well-run little place has fought off many threats to have it closed it down.
Given that the librarian, Ruth, was so pleased to be given copies I duly travelled around Oxfordshire delivering copies to seven other local libraries and, in all cases, the book was received with a big smile and a genuine interest from librarians who loved books and were really pleased to meet an author.
Within days one had been in touch and told me she had already read the book, loved it and of the copies I had made available most were now out on loan. It was a lovely feeling to think that people, who perhaps could not afford to buy The Seven Letters, were being given access to it.
This is what I noticed on my big library trip and it flies in the face of the move to close hundreds of them down:
1. Each library was full of people, a busy hive of activity. I was astonished by how many people were using the facilities at each one.
2.The books were right up to date, with the latest releases available to all.
3. The staff, in all cases, were friendly and knowledgeable and had a very obvious love of books. They were also proactive, energetic and fully engaged with me as an author, backing me to the hilt.
4. The libraries were supporting people who have no access to computers, something that is easy to forget. Lots of people cannot access technology without the help of their library.
5. The provision for children is superb. Children don’t want kindles, they need lively, colourful books that engage and draw them in. This is how they learn to read, it is the genesis of their education. They are also voracious readers and very few parents can keep up with the demand to buy so many books.
6. Libraries are just special. The readers go in with an idea of the book they would like to loan, but they come out with armfuls of titles to explore. The freedom to choose, without paying, broadens the breadth of genres selected by a reader and organically expands his/her knowledge as a consequence.
7. Finally, it should be mentioned that authors do get paid for library loans. It is only a small amount, but in a world where retailers both on-line and in the High Street take anything up to 65% commission on every sale, a small library loan income is most welcome.
Libraries should be cultural centres and, if I had my way, there would be one on every street in Britain. How can we keep talking about shutting them when they give us free access to anything and everything? Their doors are open to encourage all people to read, learn and expand their knowledge.
Let’s keep these special and very busy places where books are revered and treated with the genuine love and respect they deserve. Let’s make them central to our communities and not something we vaguely remember having that enhanced our lives and gave us access to other worlds, for free.
The Seven Letters is available from libraries now as well as all traditional retailers and on-line outlets.
ISBN No. 978 1785899 089
Signed copies are available from janharveyauthor.com