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#LibrariesAreEssential – Creative Responses

We’ve been delighted to see a creative response to our #LibrariesAreEssential campaign and wanted to share some of the highlights with you here. Enjoy, and thank you so much to everyone who has shared their love for libraries – essential to Scotland’s brighter future!

Shahnila’s wonderful weekly planner reminds us all that #LibrariesAreEssential every day of the week!


My First Library by Tom Murray, Scottish Book Trust Reader In Residence to Scottish Borders Libraries 2013-2014

Apart from the school library, the first library I joined was Airdrie Library.  I would like to claim it was to explore further my love of Shakespeare or delve into ancient philosophy. More prosaic reason: to help me, so I naively believed, talk to girls. My defence is that I was fourteen at the time, and the phrase ‘wouldn’t say boo to a goose’ springs to mind.  I loved football and sports in general, and my reading was comics especially Roy of the Rovers. Still love Roy of the Rovers, received an annual of stories as a Christmas present a few years back. I can’t remember back then ever, apart from in school, reading a book.

Airdrie library is a magnificent building with an observatory as part of the building.  I didn’t know that at the time and for a good few years after. Rather than study the stars, I had the more pressing need to study words to impress the girls. Naturally the first books taken out were mostly eight hundred pages of close type. A lot of words in type I was barely able to read without a Sherlock Holmes type magnifying glass. Dickens was an early choice. Barnaby Rudge if I remember right was the first novel I took out the library. I got as far as the blurb and a drop-jawed flick through the endless pages. Not then but now Dickens is one of my favourite authors. Reading likes aren’t always instant but can grow with you. I also took out Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, mainly for the fact that it included some poems in French and English translation. I imagined it casually falling out of my school bag.

‘You speak French?’ she said.

‘Oui.’ I casually replied.

It stayed in my imagination as I never had the confidence, or good sense prevailed, to try it. It took me a good while but I did read Les Misérables. I still love a hardback full-weighted book. My bookshelves groan with them.

Even though I never did learn how to talk to girls in French, joining the library was the start of my discovery of a world I barely knew existed. I had always been a dreamer, making up stories inside my head. That walk through the library doors was the beginning of the realisation that I could write my own stories. I did and eventually became a full-time writer, after many years working in a textile factory.

There are many other reasons to enter a library, alongside taking out books. Company, information, the road to confidence, escape into another world. I always think of the library as like the Tardis. So much bigger on the inside than out.  Once you travel in a library you are never the same person again but an expansion of yourself. A library doesn`t belong to anyone or exist in the now, but to everyone and is timeless.



do enter. Yes, these old doors creak

don’t they? No matter, no mind will

notice absorbed as they are. Please,

look round. Up and down, rank and rank

of bared spine. Run fingers over bindings,

read the names written, breathe it,

verso, recto, verso, recto.


You hesitate? It’s only natural, here

you hang on worlds’ edges. It wouldn’t do

to plunge too quick. You taste potential

and it is sweet and heady and endless.

What will you do with this feeling,

where will you go? No, I can’t come –

let go my hand, take your first step,


I’ll be waiting when you come back, yes

you will come back many, many times.

I just know, trust me. As to how to find

your way, your way will soon find you.

It’s ok, don’t be afraid. Step, run, jump,

worlds are waiting for you, go

and pick your first one.


by Maxine Rose Munro

First published by Pushing Out the Boat.



Public Libraries by Stephanie Green

Ahh. Saturday mornings, when our Dad took us down to change our books – and we always came away laden with the full quota. Once I’d grown out of the (at that time in the 50s and 60s) limited children’s section, I was unsure what to read. Green/e seemed a good place to start, being my own surname and so in this rather haphazard way I worked my way through the entire canon of Graham Greene and Henry Green. How they coloured my (green) world view for years.  As a 13 year old with no experience of any world other than a convent-school, it was certainly a revelation. (Not that I had any understanding that affaires amoureuses were going on in the latter.) But I had entered a grown-up world of sensibilities, complicated half-inarticulate emotions, that spoke to my own adolescent loneliness – perhaps I was not so alone. And what an introduction to style: Greene’s page-turning pace and Green’s elliptical, minimalist dialogue.

With my father in the forces, and a new posting every three years, there was no way he was going to transport boxfulls of books every move. So Dad’s shelves were limited to mainly factual books -a leather-bound Encyclopaedia was prominent. In these days of the internet, perhaps homes no longer need encyclopaedias in book form? But facts are not enough. How about the awakening of the imagination, fostering of understanding and empathy with other people? (If you want to understand emotional relationships, read novels).

But a handful of books was not going to last the summer hols. Thank G for the public library…without which I doubt I’d have made it to university. And so on…

I’m told our house is known as ‘the second hand book store’ by our son’s school mates when they visited – every room has that slightly musty smell of old paperbacks…but even in a house of writers like ourselves, there are more books we want to read, far more than we can possibly afford to buy, or have space to store…so it’s back to the public library.

And what about people who were not fortunate enough to be born into a home full of books? Or cannot afford any books, let alone more books?

Find more about why #LibrariesAreEssential on Stephanie’s blog here.


a newspaper lying on the ground beside a headline reading 'Fake News: The Fight Against Disinformation', the text of the poem and the #LibrariesAreEssential hashtag.

Joy McLean’s powerful poem is a call to arms for all those who care about tackling disinformation, highlighting the essential role that libraries play on the frontline


My Luve Is Like A Read, Read Story


Wee cosy, tranquil Gatehouse* Library

Ah come in quite a lot tay see yi,

Tay read yir books and use yir wifi

An’ chat tay Joannie**,

Sae noo Ah’m goannie sing yir praises,

Ah’m pure dead goannie.


Ye’re sic’ a cultural oasis,

Wan o’ ma favourite learnin’ places,

Yir books can form the verra basis

O’ Scottish brain power,

Enrichin’ minds an’ cheeky faces

O’ Scottish wean power.


So let us pray they never close yi

Tay those who would, we will oppose yi.

We’ll be the storm an ill wind blows yi

At sic’ a crunch time.

The only closin’ we’ll allow

Is Joannie’s lunch time.


* Gatehouse of Fleet in South West Scotland

** Joan, the librarian


by Chik J Duncan, Writer, Storyteller and Performer of Poyums


The Library by Juliet Wilson@craftygreenpoet

I loved the library in the town where I grew up. It was housed in a quirky little building with shiny wooden floors and steps down to the children’s section. The place smelt wonderfully of polished wood and was full of more books than I would ever be able to read. I could choose any book I wanted to, without having to think about whether I would be allowed to buy it. So I discovered stories that I would never have otherwise found, stories that still sit in my memory now, though I’ve forgotten the details. A story of children growing up in the stone age; a story of a boy with epilepsy discovering a bond with nature and many others. It was also here that one day I was surprised by a fellow pupil from my school slithering under the book cases and grabbing my ankles!

When I was a teenager, the library started stocking music, which gave an extra dimension to my borrowing. Now I could randomly select music and listen, without actually buying the albums! A great way to broaden my musical horizons.

I pass the library every time I visit the town where I grew up. The building now houses a motor-cycle showroom. The library itself is now up in the town centre, in the same building as the medical centre. I’ve never visited it there, it just wouldn’t be the same, though I’m sure it offers the same expanded horizons to today’s children as the old library did for me.


Our Book Brethren


Open a book. Let stories steep your soul.


Bookcases voluptuously bulge with read

and unread books. To pick one,

deprives the rest of remembrance.

As pages turn, so does a day


to immerse in their vibrance, but

overstretch a spine and it will snap!

They’re family, our book brethren.

Corners can’t be creased!


Slips into a bag; secreted until it’s time

to revel in its reveal in the library,

on a train journey,

and even waiting in a queue,


for it’s your best buddy.

Escape the drudgery by

discovering the dead, loving the loveless,

yearning yesteryears and


reconnect with lost connections.

Slurp those similes and munch on the metaphors,

lush in our love of books; the chemical rush

is addictive as any sugar high.


Open a book. Let stories steep your soul.


by Paula Nicolson, writer and school librarian


The question, why do I think #LibrariesAreEssential, took me, quite unexpectedly, on a journey back to my own childhood.

I suddenly found my inner child gripping the counter while my tiptoes gave me just enough height to watch as the librarian prepared to stamp my library card. The thud that inevitably followed was the final confirmation that my choice in books was indeed coming home with me. I would clutch the temporary additions to our family firmly in my arms and watch as the librarian busied herself between stamping my grandmother’s choices and the tower of drawers behind her. The imposing wooden structure held the world within it. The cogs of the library wheel turned with every drawer that was opened and every card that was stamped.

I remembered the people we would meet and the whispers that would ensue around our newly selected books. And as I reminisced, I was hit with the overwhelming feeling that even though times have changed and the world has moved on, our need for libraries has most certainly not gone. Although we now independently scan our library cards and books, librarians are on the library floor, eager to help, talk books, and help you discover new authors, new worlds, and new interests.

And, although the memories from my childhood reinforce the need for our libraries, it is my career as an author that has opened my eyes fully to what our libraries and dedicated librarians do for their communities.

Librarians work hard with local schools and organisations and I have enjoyed many great events in libraries throughout Scotland where local primary school children have come to not only hear my stories and chat about their reading and writing but also, as part of their school visit, choose a book to borrow. I’ve watched as the children instinctively go to their preferred section and I’ve been inspired by their willingness to search for new worlds and new characters.

But given that now more than ever, parents and carers are working, and time is often a luxury, it is thanks to our librarians and the tireless work they do to build relationships with their local primary schools, that has given many children the opportunity to benefit from our libraries. They organise and hold author events; they unite the literary world, and they open doors for many children that may not otherwise be given the opportunity. Reading is an essential building block in a child’s learning. It feeds their imaginations and their creativity, and by default improves their own writing and storytelling skills.

Our children are our future! Every single one of them! And thanks to our passionate and dedicated librarians they grow into adulthood feeling welcomed in our library system. And, as their autumn years will inevitably approach, libraries will still be there, offering a source of comfort, friendship, and familiarity as they welcome them to author and community events.

Please do not underestimate the power of our libraries and their dedicated librarians.

by Pauline Tait, multi genre author


The school community of Elgin Academy Library has come up with some creative ways to express all that their library means to them. Here’s ‘An Ode to Libraries’, a beautiful poem written and illustrated by Pollyanna.


And ‘The Tripoets’ Josh, Finlay and Magnus have these wonderful words to share:




The library is quite the place to be,

Shelves upon shelves, many books you can see.

With adventures and fantasies

Of distant lands and far off seas.

Wars and battles great and small,

Huge eruptions breaking down the wall.

As you go into an unknown place,

You get fired up to outer space.

Where huge surprises await you there so you, brave traveller be aware.

And as you finish your amazing tale,

You feel like you have been on the back of a whale!


Thank you so much to Elgin Academy Librarian Shelagh Toonen for sharing these inspiring responses – click here for more on why School #LibrariesAreEssential, including a case study of how lockdown book clubs helped Elgin Academy pupils and staff stay connected during the pandemic.


Click here for details of how to send in your own creative response to our #LibrariesAreEssential campaign.

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