As a child, I was regularly taken to the children's library in Gloucester, by my parents. It was in a separate building to the main library, and I have very strong memories of those visits and the impact that they made on me, as I chose, and then proudly carried home, my books. At the time, you couldn't join or use the adult library until you reached the age of 12, and how excited I was on the day that I was finally old enough. We had a ceremonial visit for me to join the adult library. As a school student, both the public library and my school library were vital in enabling me to access the range of books and information resources that I needed for my studies. As a teenager, I started working one evening a week in my local community library, in order to earn some pocket money, but, in fact, I got much more than this. While working there, an inspirational librarian showed me the vital place that a good library has in its community and taught me what ‘being a librarian’ really meant. He made me realize where I wanted my career path to take me. Today, some 40 years later, spanning a career spent working in the field of children and young people's library services, my belief in the value of library services – the role they have in their local communities and the impact they can have on the lives of children and families – is as strong as ever.
Communities need libraries, and, in difficult times, libraries are needed more than ever, because they provide safe and trusted spaces for communities, as well as resources that can be used and borrowed, instead of having to be bought. In this digital age, this is a time of great change for libraries. The pace of change is rapid, with many challenges affecting how library services continue to shape and deliver their services. In the UK, the Government's agenda for public sector reform, combined with ongoing budgetary restraint, has seen changes and cuts in many library services, with new models of service delivery starting to emerge, which will redefine the role of library services and librarians in this country.