International Library Day: My Experience of Libraries (and Some Favourite Books)

I didn’t know that today, the 24th of October, is International Library Day. I found out from the news on TV. You learn something new every day.

I’ve known various libraries in my lifetime. Our library in Wallingford, Oxfordshire was hidden away amongst other buildings set back from the High Street.

There was a kids’ corner with different books which I liked when I was little.

As a teenager, my book choices were the teen book series Sweet Valley High, about the blonde haired, blue eyed Wakefield twins, Jessica and Elizabeth and their adventures in life and love. They were so popular the books were hard to find and always being borrowed by other people. I also enjoyed the Point Romance book series.

I had other books at home, such as the Wild Hearts series by Cherie Bennett (I loved the clothes and the music and the bright, colorful covers with hearts on them as well as the romance). I was overjoyed when I found books 5 and 6 online as an adult.

The Babysitter’s Club by Ann.M. Martin, was a huge series I have never been able to collect all the books from, and I started at age 12, but I was glad to have some. These also had good bold print I could see.

I one day decided I was “too grown up” for them when I was 15 or 16 and sold most of the ones I had for £5 at a garage sale me and my sister had. BIG MISTAKE: years later, I regret this, but they are fortunately available as Kindle ebooks.

The Making Out series by Katherine Applegate (called Boyfriends and Girlfriends in the US) as well as the Making Waves series, also by Katherine Applegate. These were the only large book series I ever managed to almost completely collect, and some books were so used that I my dad bought me other copies of them years later.

My biggest bargain was a used book I thought would be in a good condition but when it arrived, my husband told me it had a Tipp-Ex stain on the front cover. I felt with my fingers and sure enough, there it was. I was devastated: it was book 28 in the Making Out Series and I had finished it. I was already sad at such a great series coming to an end.

I have never forgotten the kind bookseller who let me keep the book and gave me my money back. I could not bear to part with this book as I had to know how the series would end. The bold type was one I could see if it was very close to my eyes, held in a book holder stand I had, and for this I was grateful.

I wanted, (and still want) Chatham Island off the Maine coast to be real. I wanted to meet Zoey, talk to Ben about sight loss, discuss the weather with Claire, talk dark lipstick colors and cool hairstyles with Nina, stay at Aisha’s parents B&B and go out on Lucas’ boat. I wanted to get to know Christopher and have a meal at Zoey and Ben’s parents restaurant, Passmores. I wanted to get to know Lara despite her troubled past. And I want to know more about Kate, who, to me, was always a bit of a mystery.

My favourite series about horses were The Saddle Club books (some of which I found in the library) and the My Friend Flicka trilogy by Mary O’Hara.

Other libraries I visited were in Didcot, Oxfordshire. I went to secondary (high) school in Didcot, and used the library there but mainly as a quieter place to do my homework and this was useful for the times I needed extra help from my classroom assistant/caregiver.

One of the best things about visiting my Gran in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, were the times she’d take my sister and I to her local library, where she’d borrow books herself. I felt I had a lot of books, but we rented DVDs from there. It was always interesting to explore the libarary there.

Once I got to University, I used the library at The University of Wales, Swansea. One thing I remember about that library was asking someone to put the María Moliner Spanish-English dictionary, which my then-Spanish teacher insisted we used. Dictionaries, just like many books and due to heavy weight and their small print, are impossible for me to use. I was good enough at Spanish that I didn’t really need one.

When, at age 19 I transferred to Reading University, I used the library there. I have fond memories of the tall brick building with windows on all sides looking out onto Shinfield Park, home of Whitekinights Campus, the same campus I lived on in my first year. The campus had lots of green areas and lots of trees, plus a lake on the other side of the campus. I remember wishing the lake was near the library so I could look down on it from the library window.

The library was my quiet place to observe the trees and the view of the campus as I thought of ideas for my assignments or just daydreamed about what I’d do in my free time between classes or at the weekend. I’m a big daydreamer, and that still hasn’t changed.

Books and libraries are great to make you dream if you’re a book lover like I am. I would wish that the complicated journal article in front of me were my favourite book instead, but my hunger for knowledge would make me want to try to understand it although all I got through was the abstract (article summary). In books with photos, I’d spend more time looking at the photos, especially if the font was too small, which it often was.

I would spend a lot of time trying to get my needs met in that library on Whiteknights Campus: I’d get staff to get books from the library of Bulmershe Campus, another of Reading University’s campuses so I didn’t have to go up there and I’d try to get them to photocopy something for me for class in large print so I could see it. They unfortunately had too much work to do, so I just asked my caregiver.

On the news today, they were talking about International Library Day and reading clubs for people with reading difficulties.

People who could use and benefit from these clubs are people with intellectual disabilities, children and adolescents with learning disabilities, the elderly or those with neuropsychological disorders.

Others who could benefit are people with temporary reading difficulties, such as people who recently immigrated to a country and who do not know the language or people who are starting to read, people who had poor schooling, or people who are illiterate.

What is easy reading?

Shared reading means sharing the experience of reading books, documents, websites and more. All these are specially prepared so people with reading difficulties can read and understand them.

Easy reading clubs help people with disabilities and circumstances causing difficulty with reading to read easily, as well as to understand and understand what is being read.

The groups are made up of people with different reading skills, who read aloud and share readings and activities, always guided by a librarian and therapists.

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