This week I'm joining Barbara, the hostess of Tuesday Intros, with a book of short stories that I chose from our travelling library. It's a service that is very much under threat as councils try to make their money stretch. Ali Smith's book is her plea for the continuation of a library service that is free to all.
This is the information on the flyleaf.
The stories are interspaced with reflections from a variety of people on the value of libraries.
The book opens with
Here's a true story. Simon, my editor, and I had been meeting to talk about how to put together this book you're reading right now. We set off on a short walk across central London to his office to photocopy some stories I'd brought with me.
Just off Covent Garden we saw a building with the word LIBRARY above its doors.
It didn't look like a library. It looked like a fancy shop.
What do you think it is? Simon said.
Let's see, I said.
We crossed the road and went in.
Everything inside was painted black. There was a little vestibule and in it a woman was standing behind a high reception desk. She smiled a hello. Further in, ahead of us, I could just glimpse some people sitting at a table and we could hear from behind a thin partition wall the sounds of people drinking and talking.
Hello, we said. Is this a library?
The woman lost her smile.
No, she said.
The travelling library stops right outside our garden gate. I've always joked that as long as I'm able to stagger down the garden path as an old lady to select my books then I shall be alright. Now there is a very real risk that the library will no longer exist before ever I get to the staggering stage!