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Dear Library by Jackie Kay

‘Dear Library’ by Jackie Kay was specially commissioned by Scottish Book Trust as part of the Artworks For Libraries project.

Jackie Kay on Authors Live

Dear library


See when ah wiz wee ma faverit day wis Wednisday, library day,

when Ma an me wid go tae ma library an I wid get to pik ma book an get it stampd oot

efter the ither yin had been stampd in and I hid ma very ain card which wiz a wee magic envlope

that took me tae anither world awthegither fu o’ caracters an creatures, auntie lopes, big broon bears, loins and tigrs, new wurds

an anythin an aw’thin I wants tae ken aboot the moon, stars, sea, the hale galaxy, the wide wurld wiz at the tip o my fingers in ma locall library.


Always a new book to wolf down in the dead of night, a borrowed book to read by torchlight… In the morning, last night’s saved page turns to who last had this book out and the date returned, 9 June, this year.

This same book in a stranger's hands, half-known. Those readers, kindred spirits, almost friends. You are in transition; you are on the threshold. The library is the place that gets you. Pure gold.

You are Holden, you’re Lyra, you’re White Fang, you’re Kidnapped, you’re Skellig, you’re Refugee Boy. You’re Callum, a nought, you’re Catch 22. You’re Chris Guthrie. You're Hyde. You're Boo Radley. It's not Accidental. You are those books. Those books are You.

Inside your mind you’re strong. Safe. Toss a coin: heads, reader; tails, writer. The library is the young writer’s first home. You read pertinent sayings, make your own. The cool teenager is a member of the library.


I go to my library to find out about the baby growing like a story inside me: 37 weeks!

My baby is likely to be sucking his thumb, her thumb. My tight tummy is a drum, a drum.

The child who I will one day – hopefully – bring back to this library, ah wee one, is turning.

I’ll get her a first library card, bless, and sit where I’m sat now, reading, to test

the books I’ll soon read to him, fingers crossed. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon 37 weeks: my tummy – boom, boom, beating time!

Come soon wee baby; wee baby come soon. Come dream in your basket under the shy moon,

My hungry caterpillar, my goodnight gorilla. My dear wee daughter, my good little fella.


A book borrowed, kindly given. A book swapped, loved, exchanged. A book you will always hand back. A book is a coat for your mind.

You’ve reached the age, 50 something, when you look back on borrowed books as if they were old friends – with nostalgia, with affection, intimately known.

The time when you read The Raj Quartet, or Han Suyin Toni Morrison or Memo for Spring, Things Fall Apart or Fire on the Mountain. Poor Madame Bovary. Poor Anna Karenina.

Your life: many characters, bleak houses, long day’s journeys. Your life of mixed fates, give and takes; What you borrowed last month, you return today.


Dear Library, you want to say, Dear Library, you have served me well all my life. You are magnificence, munificence. You are a book festival every day. There is no way, me an OAP, could ever value what you’ve given me by money.

There is no measure for the enriching of the mind, friend. Faithful and trusty, Dear Library, you are a heart stopper, a kind giver. I treasure your lively silence; your very pleasant librarians. They represent what a public service is truly, libertarian.

Impossible, did I say that already, to put a price on that. Again, stop me if I am repeating myself, your staff will tell me of a Saramago Street in a nearby town. Browse, borrow, request, renew – lovely words to me. A library card in your hand is your democracy.

If you were to shut, Dear Library, it would break my heart. A library user all my life, I’d be lost without my library. A closed library could only welcome a closed mind. Is there a kinder place that you can find than your local library?

I want to say, and I do. I pick up my pen and write to you.