My Library Story: Jonny Mayner, The Library Lobby campaigner

Libraries have just always been there.

One of my earliest memories (I can have been no older than three or four) involves a Toy & Book Library and a lost red fire engine that was, for a week, my most treasured possession; my mother exasperatedly asking me where I had left the borrowed toy, as she tried to get me out of the house to the library on time while I cried as only toddlers can. I’m sure we found it in the end.

image7By the age of nine or ten, I was a regular visitor to my local public library, housed in a grand (if faded) building on a busy high street. Growing up with a (by then) disabled mother and a father working two jobs to keep the family ship afloat, times were tough. My parents indulged my hunger for books as much as they could, but the library supplemented their efforts and fulfilled other needs. Sometimes I went with my older brother, but more often alone; to be quiet and to discover new things. Usually that new thing was an Asterix book that I hadn’t yet read (I’ve never been a Tin Tin man) but eventually the Reference Section and other content beckoned. 

The library was there.

At 16 my family moved to the outskirts of a small town, two bus journeys away from my school in the city. Fortunately, the town had a small, modern public library next to the terminus where I changed bus services. I did a lot of homework and most of my GCSE revision in that library; a warm place to get my head down while waiting for the next bus on a cold, wet evening. 

The library was there.

By 17 I had discovered the large central library in the city where I grew up. This was another world. Old wooden tables, musty card drawers and prim librarians behind the counters. I researched and wrote homework essays and did most of my A-level revision in that library, at desks piled with books that I couldn’t get at my school library or readily obtain at my small local library.

The library was there.

As a university student, and later when I retrained as a lawyer, I had access to the academic libraries attached to the university or college that I was attending at the time. I went through a period when I didn’t need public libraries so much. I suspect that many of us do, when fortune smiles on us. But I would never have crossed the threshold of that university, that college, had public libraries not been there for me when I needed them.

image6And now my two-year old son, with his friends and carers from his nursery group, is a regular visitor to Sutton Coldfield Town Centre Library. For now. But I want to make sure that a top-quality library service is there for him when he needs it. I owe it to him. And I owe it to every child from a background like mine, who rely on libraries as safe spaces to learn and to expand their horizons.

The library must be there.

If we do not fight to retain these services in our town centre now, when you need the library, it will not be there. Please do all you can to support this campaign. 

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