For the love of libraries

Submitted by Library & Academic Skills Team on Tue, 10/19/2021 - 13:23

As part of #LibrariesWeek, we asked our friends and colleagues to tell us what they love about libraries. They did not disappoint! 

Hazel Bowley, Academic Skills Tutor  

I hated reading at school. Constantly being judged and tested, I already knew I was behind in my reading level and that I was a slow reader anyway, I didn’t need reminding. Turns out I just hated the books and the pressure. Do you know where it’s safe to read? The Library. The ultimate bastion of a socialist institution, an environment dedicated to the written word and unlimited access the learning. Want to read? Great! Want to pick books you are interested in? Brilliant! Want to feel safe and access support? Libraries can help.  

Maybe I just watched Matilda too many times as a child, but reading for the joy of reading and the discoveries you make along the way are some of the greatest joys a person can experience, and for me that always happened at the library.  


Trudy Waterson-Duly, Deputy Head of Library Services  

One of my earliest memories as a small child back in the 70’s and 80’s, was being taken to my local public library. Walking into the purpose built art deco building in a South West London suburb, I remember firstly entering the newspaper reading room where lots of “old men” (or so them seemed at the time), flicked through the daily broadsheets surrounded by a haze of cigarette smoke.   

My mother then hurried me off into the main adult library where she returned her books in complete silence; all that could be heard was the sound of the date stamp. Then it was my turn and my absolute delight was entering the children’s library, here I was often left to browse by myself, left to choose my 6 books, which were free and that I could borrow for 3 weeks! Coming from a home of 7 where chaos, noise and disorder was the norm, the shelves and shelves of books and neat organization was something which pleased me no end.   

When it came to choosing books, it was always mixture of fact and fiction. Factual books included the great fire of London, the Egyptians plus an amazing book that taught me the facts of life, if I wanted to find out something I went to the library, there was no “Google it” then. My fiction tastes changed with age and I went through Eric Carle, Judith Kerr, Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis and as I got older Judy Blume.   

For me libraries are a place where I feel happy, so it’s no surprise that I ended up as a librarian with my first position in the music department at Cambridge University Library. Which undoubtedly gave me a fantastic grounding in librarianship.   


Sam Aylett, Academic Skills Tutor  

My love for books and libraries started with local libraries and those mobile libraries that would visit your school. I don’t remember much about my mum, but vivid memories I have are of her taking me to the public library and taking me to the mobile library at my primary school equipped with a book token (£10); you could borrow books of course, but they also had books for sale. Before Harry Potter hit the shelves, I was an enormous fan of Goosebump books. My older cousin Lisa read them, and I looked up to her and wanted to emulate her as you tend to do at that age. I would always try and snag a Goosebumps book at the mobile library. Failing that, I was an avid reader of the Animorphs series (terrible books in Hindsight).    

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit the shelves when I was seven, and my mum gladly rushed me to Asda to get a copy. It was a first edition. I recently had the opportunity to sell it for quite a bit of money. I couldn’t part with it. The Harry Potter books further inspired my love for fiction and reading, and throughout Primary school I would endeavour to be the ‘best’ reader in class and to be a colour band above the rest; for those of you who remember the colour banding. I would borrow as many books as I could, Michael Ende being my favourite author; Momo – arguably his best – I still find to be a great read, even as an adult, and I would recommend everyone to read it.   

University libraries have, of course, been a mainstay in my life, personally and professionally. When I first met my now partner at university, we would spend hours in the grad school library working on essays. At first, we were just friends, and I hoped that those long study sessions would pay off in the form of a date afterwards at the local pub or SU bar. It did. Throughout my graduate studies libraries became a second home, snuggled away in a corner working on my MA dissertation, and then later my PhD thesis. Towards the end of my PhD, I commuted from Berlin back to London, and eBook and online databases were invaluable. I had come a long way from roaming the stack and going to the 3rd floor to peruse journals. I maintain a strong personal library at home. Academic books in the office, and fiction in the living room; a separation I strongly recommend. Don’t trusty those that pretend to enjoy reading Foucault as much as they do a good crime novel (I am of course joking).   

Why do I love libraries (and books)? Above all else, my love for books and literature was inspired by my mum, those few memories I have tend to involve books. She was also an avid reader of all sorts, and ensured we had plenty of books in the house; money was always available for books. Books, among other things, are one of our strongest connections to the past. I say this as a historian, but also personally, they keep me connect to me mum. As part of this year’s National Libraires Week, individuals are encouraged to share stories “of the change the library has made to their life” (librairesweek, 2021). Libraries and books have undoubtedly changed my life but they have also allowed me to maintain such an important aspect of it.   

Jonathan Denham, Academic Skills Tutor  

For me the library always represented a place of free knowledge and free ideas. When I was undergraduate I had a few struggles at university with my mental health but I would always find that going to the library made me feel better. It was a place I was able to let my imagination take hold and to go down whatever rabbit hole I wanted to without worrying about the outside world. I would relish then the walks into cool autumn and then cold winter evenings as my mind still fired with the things I had been reading.  

Lauren Hamilton, Senior Academic Skills Tutor  

For me, Libraries, and more importantly books, are a way of escaping. When I was younger, I would lose myself in adventure books, hoping that one day I too would become an explorer, a mermaid, or even someone who could fly – My imagination would run wild! As I grew older, I guess that mindset evolved slightly and my need for books changed. Now I read to learn – about myself and about my area of research in education. One thing that hasn’t changed are the books. You can always rely on them to be there, whenever you need them! I guess that’s the beauty of digital, right?  

Debora Quattrocci, Academic Skills Tutor  

I love libraries. Going to a library is a synaesthetic experience, involving all senses: the building, the corridors, the musty smells of old books, the silence, the soft rustling of the pages being quietly flicked through by eager researchers, (a bit less eager 😊) students, devoted librarians. The imposing architecture, the vertical arrangement, the stairs, the floors, the shelves … the corridors (I know I have already mentioned them but there is something about them) … Think Senate House Library, one of the most evocative Art Deco buildings in London! All those books… to hold, read, re-read, bend, twist, make yours, annotating a sudden realisation here, a random comment there … the insights you can sometimes find on the margins!  

At Arden we are very lucky to have a fantastic digital library, but you should really try, at least once in your life, to lose yourself in the corridors of a physical library! ❤📚  

Emily Clark, Deputy Head of Library Services  

There are different Libraries for each stage in your life and a great Library should be your companion throughout your journey.   

I started my Library journey by signing up to my local community library as a small child and reading every book they stocked on witches. I then moved on to the larger town library and devoured the entire ‘teen’ section on our monthly family visits. At college, I studied in the oak panelled library, then then carried home piles of textbooks on the bus from the University Library. As part of my online Masters degree, I discovered the world of eBooks and digital Libraries, meaning I could quickly get access to the books I needed when studying late I night. Since joining Arden, I have been enjoying the convenience of downloading books onto my phone and reading them whenever I get any downtime. A great Library is one that can provide the information and inspiration you need along the way.  


Reading and Research