Friday, 12 June 2009


I am not here.
To all intents and purposes - stupid phrase - I do not exist. I am having a rare weekend off. And when I say "off", boy, do I mean "off"? Indeed I do.

Let me tell you what I am doing. (And there will be a serious point to this post, as ever.) When I say "am", this is confusing, because actually I "am" writing this post in advance of doing the thing that I "am" doing. But, having an imagination, I can tell you what I will be doing when this post automatically wings its way to you. What I am doing is ... prepare yourself ... relaxing.

See, Jane Smith thinks I'm working really really hard promoting
Deathwatch, and she is in awe of my energy. Little does she know that this weekend, from Friday afternoon till Sunday afternoon, I am going to be alternately in states of bliss and euphoria and my only exertion will involve trying to work out if there is any difference. (I will report back.) Two friends are coming to stay, both female, which is important, because otherwise this wouldn't work - hang on: what did you think I meant?? - and we are indulging in a weekend of pure, well, indulgence. This involves, in almost equal measure, chocolate, sparkly wine, laughter, friendship, reminiscences, sparkly wine, chocolate and ... spa treatments. Oh yes! I am having a rejuvenating facial (increasingly necessary, according to a man close to me - too close for comfort if he says that again) and a "sports" massage (the closest I plan to come to "sports" this side of death).

While I am doing this - in preparation, I may say, for a horrendous week of all the things Jane thinks I'm doing - you are going to be doing a very, very simple task. You are going to go on-line and sign an incredibly important petition. I think you have to live in the UK to do this, but if you don't, please cheer us from the side-lines.

The petition is simple. It calls for school libraries to be statutory.

Now, OK, so I am children's author and perhaps therefore care more than some about school libraries. But every author should care equally. Because school libraries create the readers of the future. The readers of your books.
Without readers we can no more than whisper in a storm.

Every children's author knows the wonderful work that school librarians do. They inspire reading; they have myriad ways to entice even the reluctant or afraid into the magical world of books. They can, quite frankly, save people. We, keen readers, take reading for granted. We assume that reading is an optional hobby, just because you don't die if you don't do it. But we forget that you don't live if you don't do it. Or not properly, not fully.

Only someone who takes for granted the pleasure and power of reading, or someone of extreme callousness, could not want to support something which offers that power and opens that world to all. Without the reader paying anything.

In a couple of weeks' time, I'm doing a key-note speech at a librarians' conference and I plan to show them what goes on in the human brain when we read fiction, why it is necessary for our soul and our humanity, our health, our decision-making, our morality. I'll be preaching to the converted, but I want them to understand and value the immense importance of what they do. I want them to go away knowing that they are doing one of the most relevant jobs possible and one that is needed more than ever in our fast-paced digital world, where we are bombarded with data too quickly to process it properly, too quickly to generate wisdom.

Please, please sign this petition. Your future readers depend on it. You depend on it.

Meanwhile, I've signed it, so I am allowed to have rejuvenating collagen facials and relaxing sports massages. But I will not be so relaxed that I won't be absolutely furious if lots of you haven't signed it.

Listen, someone told me I was scary the other day. Hooray for scary. I can be even scarier if called upon.

Just sign, OK?

I'm even going to harangue the masseuse into signing.


Suzanne Jones said...

Thanks for highlighting this - have just signed (no 397).

Enjoy your weekend.

BuffySquirrel said...

Okay, I signed it. I don't honestly remember my school even having a librarian, though.

Teresa Ashby said...

Thank you for this - I have signed too.

Your weekend sounds great - have fun!

Donna Hosie said...

This is going to be a rambling post, so I will apologise right now, but school libraries is a subject very close to my heart.

My 13 year old goes to a private school. When we were first shown around the school, the one thing that stuck in my mind was the size of their library - it was like the inside of a cathedral! Rows upon rows of novels with big squishy bean bags for the kids to use at their leisure - I wanted to move in!
Never before had the importance of money in the school system been so graphically highlighted to me. I went home with my children, we immediately sorted through the good quality books they had and didn't read anymore and then donated them to a state funded school. When we handed them over, (it was about 50 books in total, all in excellent condition), the school librarian looked as if she was going to cry.
School librarians, in fact most librarians, have a vocation to do what they do, and they are a vital cog in the machine to improve literacy levels. They deserve support from Government, the publishing industry and parents.
Alas I can't sign the petition as I'm Down Under, but we can all do our bit to help.
At the press launch of the new iPhone last week, Steve Jobs said this.
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

I have no idea whether his comments were correct, but it scared the heck out of me regardless. A love of literature needs to be kick-started when a person is young, so that it is something they take for granted as being an important part of their life.

I'll stop rambling now! Enjoy your weekend, Nicola.

Ebony McKenna. said...

Every school I went to in Australia (and I went to a few) had a library. Even the tiny school in regional Victoria where we only had 10 students and one teacher.

I wish I could sign, but I don't qualify, but yes, I shall cheer from the sidelines.