**This week I am honoured to be ‘Tweeting for the Week’ for the great Voices 4 Libraries campaign group. So my Wednesday Waffle blog today is a post I have written for their website all about me and libraries…**
I grew up in a library. And by ‘grew up’ I mean I went there every Saturday morning for almost my entire teenage time. Money, see, was tight. Back then, in the early 1980s when Maggie Thatcher was at the helm, interest rates were through the roof and Danger Mouse was on TV, money for books was a thing of luxury.
Trouble was, I wanted books. I wanted books more than I wanted food, more than I wanted water – more than I wanted Morten Harket from A-ha. I was hooked. Books you see to me were my oxygen. And if books were my oxygen, then the library were my lungs. Without the two, I couldn’t breathe. Knowledge was what it was – is – all about. Knowledge is the nutrients you glean from books, from the library, and just like nutrients, knowledge makes you grow.
And grow me I did. I devoured everything. Fact, fiction, goblins, boarding schools, hobbits, workhouses, magical wardrobes, sweeping fields. I would sit, cross legged in Leyland library for hours on end, books stacked by me like small towers, each of them in sections, ready for me to read.
And read them I did. Fast, slow, again. You name it. Some I took home, others I finished there and then, but each time I picked one up, each time I inhaled the woody scent of a new page, of a worn spine, I would smile, because I knew. I knew that I was learning, that this library, this wonderful place of knowledge, facts, world news, fantastical journeys, would help me figure things out. And if not, at the very least, I knew a good read of the page would send me off to sleep at night.
Some two decades on, and that love of the library is still with me now. My job is a writer, freelance, and I surround myself with books and words. In 2012, I became a newspaper columnist for the Gloucestershire Gazette newspaper, and also a magazine columnist for the Gloucestershire Citizen and Echo newspapers. Before that, for years, I was an advertising copywriter working on words for big brand ads.
In and around all this, I have written radio sketches for the BBC, plays, short stories, and in 2012 I was runner up in the Wotton Arts and Literature Festival Short Story Prize. I write a regular blog. I’ve had a stab at TV scripts, too, ending up long- listed in a BBC Talent scheme for a script I wrote for the TV show, Casualty. And for The Guardian newspaper, I was short-listed in their travel writing competition.
All the way, the library throughout everything has seen me good. So good in fact, I’ve ended up writing fiction books of my own, my first, The Boy Who Played Guitar, published in digital and print last year. 2013 has seen me complete the first draft of my second novel and now it’s the long edit process and then I’m done.
So that’s me. Nikki Owen. A lover of the library. My obsession with all things knowledge, with all things right, fair and equal being the reason why I’m tweeting for @VoicesLibrary. With two kids of my own now who love the library just as much as I do, who read so much that there just aren’t enough books. Two kids who also now want to be writers, illustrators, farmers, vets, doctors, because books, knowledge – it is who they are. And that’s the library in 2013. A place where, in the page of a book, you can be whoever you want to be. For free.
Links: Twitter: follow @VoicesLibrary and join the debate (and me!).
To support the campaign online, you can click onto their website here.
What are your experiences of libraries? Do you think there is still a place for libraries today or do you think, with the digital era, they’ve had their day? Let me know.
Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about fox hunting in Gloucestershire…**