Mary said, “What’s a library?”
And I said, “Well, it’s like a big house where there are lots of books. Some people are lucky to have private libraries at home, but not many people. And some schools have libraries. And there are things called Public Libraries.”
Mary said, “What’s a Public Library.”
And I said, “It’s a library that is owned by everyone, where all the books that are made are kept. You can go into a Public Library and request and borrow any book that is in print.”
“Any book?” said Mary. “They must be very big then. Because there are a lot of books in the world.”
“They don’t keep every book in the one library, Mary, but they have lots and you can ask for a book and the library will search for it and find it and then you can borrow it. And there are huge libraries, like the British Library in London, The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. They have so many books, some very old, very precious.”
And Mary said, “Do they have books about bears?” And I said, “Yes.”
Mary was quiet for a while. She must have been thinking, because then Mary said, “Can I take a book out of the library?”
So I said, “Yes, but first you have to be a member of the library. Let’s go and see if you can join.”
So together we went to the library in Hornsey.
In the library we found a special children’s section, filled with picture books and novels and games and things. We walked up to the counter and Mary said, “Hello”. At first Ashley was surprised to find a talking bear, but when we explained that Mary wanted to join the library and take out a book Ashley welcomed us and showed us how to join.
First there was a form to fill in, with address and details, and Mary had to put her age, which was a little difficult, as, like Paddington who also comes from South America, Mary doesn’t have an age as such. So we put down ‘wise’, in the age box.
And because I am Mary’s legal guardian I filled in another part of the form, and signed it. Then Ashley checked my signature.
Mary chose a library card, with Ashley’s help. Ashley liked the polar bears best so Mary chose that one, as she couldn’t decide.
Mary had already looked around the library and chosen a book, so she pushed it towards Ashley. It was a story about polar bears. Ashley said she could have twelve books at a time, but Mary said she only wanted one for now, thank you.
And then Ashley scanned Mary’s card.
Ashley went to stamp Mary’s book, and Mary was so excited she asked Ashley if she could help too, and Ashley said “Yes”, so she did.
“It’s such a good time for you to join the library, Mary,” Ashley said. “The Summer Reading Challenge starts tomorrow. You can pick up a pack for the Reading Challenge in any library in Britain and join in. All you have to do is read six books.”
“Just six?” said Mary.”Not the same one six times?”
“Just six,” said Ashley. “But you can read more if you want. And the Reading Agency have recommended books to read. This year’s theme is Mythical Maze and is all about magical creatures like dragons. When you have read six books, any six, they don’t have to be ones on the scheme, they can be short, they can be long, with pictures, without, you complete the challenge and win a gold medal for reading.”
Now Mary loves books, she didn’t need to be offered a gold medal to read, but she does like a challenge and a shiny gold medal might be a good thing to have.
“And,” Said Ashley, “there’s a website all about it and you can find recommendations for all kinds of books and set up a profile online and add reviews. There’s a book sorter than can offer up ideas and suggestions of which book to read. And all sorts of competitions to enter.”
So Mary joined the library, and went home happy with her book and her card and her pack from the Summer Reading Challenge.
On the way home Mary said “How much did it cost to join the library?”
And I said, “Nothing Mary. We all pay for the libraries with our taxes. They are a national treasure, part of our common wealth. They are something shared by everyone, no matter how rich or how poor.”
Mary was quiet again. And then she said, “I like Ashley. She’s very beautiful. And she has a special job. I can learn a lot in the library and Ashley can help me. She told me about the Reading Challenge. And she told me about some books I might like about Paddington. He was a bear too. He had a suitcase like Emily’s. I like the library.”
“So do I, Mary, I said. “So do I.”
When Mary got home she unpacked her reading challenge maze and had a look at it.
Then she read her book and filled in the first section. Only five more to go.
And Emily sent Mary a film, all about playing libraries, with creatures and books and The Weasel.