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LoveReading Library of the Month #7: Taunton Library

By Liz Robinson on 21st February 2019

Libraries matter to us here at LoveReading, we treasure their contents, staff, volunteers, activities and services.

Taunton Library in Somerset really matters to author C.J. Skuse, when I read her introduction to the library below, emotional goosebumps appeared on my arms, this is why libraries are such important parts of our communities. C.J. Skuse is the author of a number of books including Sweetpea and In Bloom (they are just a little bit (OK a lot) twisted, yet also subtle and thought-provoking too, as well as being absolutely wonderful!), she also answered our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' questions this month. I will leave her to introduce Taunton Library...

C.J. Skuse:

"A word about Taunton Library…

There’s a quote in Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’ that reads: So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone. And this has always struck a chord. Books were there for me when I most felt alone and the place where I learned to appreciate their power the most was Taunton Library. 

When I was 15, I moved to Taunton to live part-time with my auntie while I doing A Levels. And I hated it. That’s not Taunton’s fault - I adore the place and live there full time now. No, it was more what was going on inside my own head. I was a home bird and I didn’t know how to fit in anywhere else. For the first time, I was mixing with boys, expected to go to parties, drink, smoke, stay out late. It’s just what teenagers do. But I didn’t want to do any of that. And I couldn’t find anyone else who understood. 

At some point during that two years of creeping further back into my shell like a rather podgy, bespectacled crab, I stumbled upon the library. I’d regularly skive classes and walk into town to spend afternoons there; my family thinking I was at college, college thinking I was ill. But actually, I was camped in a dark corner, reading. Mostly Point Horror, Salinger, Irvine Welsh, Gillian White, biographies and revisiting books from my childhood – the Dahls, the Potters, Adrian Mole. It was here that I found the works of Kenneth Grahame through reading Alison Prince’s biography. I learned about his obsession with a childhood that he too felt had been ripped away from him before he was ready. That was how I felt. I was beginning to understand myself through books.

Taunton Library allowed me to stop my world and get off for a while to relax. And though my attendance at college nosedived, my thirst for knowledge enlarged and I started wanting to write my own books. I wanted to see them on the shelves one day; books in which a teenager like myself could find a kindred spirit within the pages. A painfully shy misanthrope for whom the world seems so confusing, perhaps.

And now, eight books later, I can."

Tell us about your library and the area it sits in. 

Taunton Library is the 2nd busiest library for book loans in the South West.  We are the busiest library in beautiful Somerset with an average of 1000 visitors per day.  

Describe your library in three words.

Fun, Free and Fabulous!

Apart from plenty of reading material, what other services does your library offer?

*Deep breath*

We offer meeting space, gallery for local artists to display their work, symphony talking café, NHS health checks, family history sessions, Raspberry Pi for adults, U3A drop in, Get Online sessions, conversation café, computer & tablet support, free learning with Unite and the National Careers Service, RVS home library service visits, 3D printing advice, seasonal craft sessions (such as for Halloween and Christmas), memory group, feel better with a book group,  toddler time, baby boogie, comic club, Lego Club (the 1st one in a library in Somerset), Code Club, Coderdojo, Nintendo Switch games sessions, Greek Classics Aloud & Shakespeare Aloud, e-magazines, e-audio books, DVDs, New for 2019 LGBT Festival.

We have a wonderful friends group who support us with their time and fundraising efforts – recent purchase include reading tents, library caterpillar, raspberry pi’s etc. We offer with their help creative writing, beginner’s sketch classes, monthly games day, woolly Wednesdays, Mahjong Club, scrabble club and a page turner’s reading group. We will answer any questions you have and if we don’t know the answer we will point you in the right direction to find the answer. 

What is the strangest book-related question your team has been asked?

A gentleman asked us for ostrich as a species and was very confused when we found him a book. He wanted after dinner speeches. Always check with your customer you understand what they need! 

We did once get asked for books about artists inspired by shelving. Oddly enough we couldn’t find any!

If you were to become a character from a book for the day, who would it be and why?

The librarian in Terry Pratchett.

What’s been the biggest surprise about working in a library?

That it is now a bright, vibrant (and sometimes noisy) place to work and visit – no longer the “shhhh” environment of the past. With the vast array of events that Library Staff have developed over recent years, our Library has truly evolved into a hub for the community – offering activities reflecting the needs of the local customers that it serves. Taunton Library has one of the most successful for a town Library, and they add value to our services gifting their time and expertise for many of our events – which raises funds for the Library.

What are your top three must-reads?

We recommend a book each month on our twitter account @somersetlib. Our latest read for December is She’s Not There by Tamsin Grey

What is your favourite book from your childhood, and why did you love it?

‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ by Beatrix Potter – I simply loved this book as a child, and I wanted my Mother to share as many of these books as we could possibly loan out from our local Library. The book is small enough for a child’s hands and has beautifully illustrated pictures that depict the story as it progresses. It has a lovely underlying message that a child can understand and learn from.

Why are libraries such a vital link in our communities?  

Somerset Libraries are dynamic, digitally aware, and are an evolving and integral part of the community: we open up a world of opportunities for reading, understanding and discovery. Libraries are socially inclusive and are free for everyone to use.

If you enjoyed this why not read our other Library of the Month features?

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tlmvjety d - 22nd March 2019

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