A Love Letter to Libraries from author Kate Tough
I'm taking this opportunity to tell you that your presence has been one of the more influential and constant I've known in life, longer than any other non-family relationship! If it hadn't been for Mearns Library, I might not have become a writer. I remember my weekly trip to there with my mother, in the 1970s, being left in peace to choose whatever books I wanted while she was choosing hers. Reading those books at home, I lost any distinction between 'reality' and 'fiction' - becoming completely enmeshed in the content and context of what I was reading. I also remember the time I followed my mum round the general fiction aisles, aged five or six, telling her that I would write books like these for grown ups one day... It took me thirty years, but I made good on that pronouncement!
Libraries continued to play an integral role, the Mitchell Library in particular, which, apart from providing a social backdrop for my Higher exam revision, was the setting for significant live literature memories, from my first 'proper' public reading (2008) to the inspiration and enjoyment of watching others (Alan Bissett's Moira Monologues, Todd Zuniga's Literary Death Match and my friend Pippa Goldschmidt's debut novel launch).
When I write alone at home, sometimes the walls and silence can start closing in and the solution is always to take my laptop to the library: change the backdrop, mix it up a little. Thus, I can pinpoint scenes in my first novel that were written and/or edited in the libraries of St George's Cross, Wigtown, Newton Stewart, Clarkston and, again, the Mitchell.
Libraries don't just serve individuals, they offer essential resources for communities
Libraries don't just serve individuals, they offer essential resources for communities. Every community has its own set of needs and, in my experience, libraries work hard to identify and meet those needs. It's something of which the UK can be very proud - the community role of its libraries. As a child in East Renfrewshire, it was relatively easy to access and enjoy books but that's not the case everywhere. Many children's lives aren't underpinned by literacy confidence. Glasgow City Council recognised this when, in 2006-8, I was employed as a homework tutor in areas where literacy and learning need more targeted support. Local libraries were identified as the best location to bring children together to offer encouragement, and extra teaching, and to foster a sense of the value in learning and their ability to learn. That kind of work has true legacy value, and I'm sure the children who came along are still benefiting, as young adults.
Seeing the wider reach that libraries could have was inspiring for me. I'm indebted to Hillhead and Govanhill libraries, who responded positively when I was starting out as a creative writing tutor, and allowed me to run my first workshops there, with no money changing hands; enabling me to work out what I was doing before offering the service professionally.
Thank you Scottish Book Trust, for asking people to write a letter to the 'library' - it's made me realise just how important libraries have been on my journey. May they continue to thrive, innovate and work with communities for the benefit of all.
Kindest regards, Kate Tough