My Library Story: Amanda Vlahakis, graphic designer

Libraries can make a difference for a lifetime.

Growing up in a home rife with alcoholism and violence, life was stressful to say the least; combine those factors with a lack of parental educational support or encouragement and one result you can expect, is a child that does not perform well in school. That child was me.

My sister was highly self-motivated at school. Perhaps she viewed school achievement as an escape from the troubles of home life; so she responded differently to it. For me, well I just couldn’t be bothered with education. But at age 12 something changed and reading became a big thing for me; nothing else educational mind you, just reading – and the library in our small town became a big part of my weekly life.

I’d trudge back and forth many times a week with as many books as they would allow me to take out; I recall being interested in factual books also, particularly books about animals and science too. Once I tried to take out a book on childbirth but they didn’t allow me to due to my age. I thought that strange to be honest; slightly embarrassing as well, almost like I’d tried to take out porn just because there were a few photos of babies exiting ladies bodies. Hah.

A few years later as GCSEs hit at age 15, while I continued to read voraciously I failed horribly at all my examinations; my only ‘real’ pass being a C in English; I’d read so much that I was very literate, and of course it was the only exam I could pass without revision. I didn’t revise for one single exam, I just didn’t care about my exams.

Life at that time was for me all about boys, and reading day and night; and I had quite a thing for writing poetry too. Indeed I still have all of my teenage poetry! (Hidden of course, it’s all rather angsty and pathetic.)

Despite an almost total lack of care over my education, in adult life I have been successful in two completely polar careers.

From my late teens to late 20’s I worked for 10 years in the finance industry, spending the final few years as a mortgage advisor. Simply getting to this role with extremely scant qualifications, by working hard and climbing the work ladder, and despite having an F in maths, was an achievement.

When I became pregnant with my first child I decided it was important to me to stay at home with her (and subsequent children) and resigned from my job in the finance industry. Unfortunately, despite intending to become a housewife and mother, my active mind became very bored inside of 6 months. Keeping the house clean, cooking and window shopping, or god forbid those mind-numbing child play groups, were not enough to prevent my boredom from rising up.

Therefore approximately 15 years ago, within the first year of giving up my job, I became a self -taught graphic designer and illustrator (despite having F grade for GCSE in art). I run my own business from home as a freelancer, often with a child or two at my feet. Not being content with that I more recently set up a new business creating and selling designer gifts and stationery.

Would I have achieved all of this without any semblance of decent qualifications (aside from a C in English) had I not been a voracious reader with library access who realised that I can teach myself things even if I don’t enjoy formal schooling? Probably not.

It’s essential that all children have easy access to a local library, because literacy is a vital life skill, and because when you have books and access to other educational mediums offered by libraries, you can life long LEARN.


Amanda Vlahakis is a local graphic designer and businesswoman and kindly designed The Library Lobby logo. You can find her graphic design business at and her designer gifts business at

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