So last night I got lost in the library, wandered down the passages and found a treasure trove of books.

Now, one would think, that for someone who buys so many books and receive quite a number of them for review, that I wouldn’t have time for the library.

This is where you’d be wrong.

You see, for me, the library is not just a gateway to a world of shelves upon shelves of books, but it’s my second home and sanctuary.

My love affair with this magical place started when I was a young child, but it was only during my primary school years that I’d really come to appreciate what the library would mean to me.

As a young girl, I was severely bullied, and as a result, I’d spend most of my lunch breaks hiding out in the library to get away from the viciousness of the girls in the playground.

The library, at the time, became a place where I could hide; and at first, that was as far as it went. The more time I began spending there though, the more I realised that something had changed.

Once I got beyond the point where the awful feelings living inside me subsided just a little bit, I finally began to comprehend what kind of impact just being in the library had on me.

It dawned on me that I had unlimited access to a world beyond worlds.

I could walk into a forest filled with fairies at any time I wanted and I could go on adventures the various little critters, creatures and all sorts of wondrous beings. And oh, not even to talk about the soothing atmosphere, the classical music and the knowledge that time suspended itself every time I took a step into the library.

This was the moment when both the written word and the library became my best friends.

By that time, I had pretty much loved reading, but it was those trips to what I thought of as my book palace (I still think that by the way), that made me realise just how important having access to books was and still is, to me.

If I think about it now, I’m thankful for the girls who picked on me back then because they are the ones that only served cement my love of reading. They hurt me, but I don’t think they realise what they gave me in the process.

Because it’s Library week in South Africa this week, I’m dedicating this column to all the wonderful librarians who keep our libraries up and running.

Because, without you, libraries wouldn’t exist and I’m fortunate enough to be able to say that not only did I have (and still have) a fantastic bookish place to run to, but I also had kind librarians who always kept an eye out for me and kept new books aside for me.

Thank you for loving books and for always sharing your knowledge. Trite as it sounds, you truly make this world a better place.

When I think of it now, I realise that I am actually pretty privileged to have the access to the kind of information and books that I did back then and do right now.

As the child of parents who were directly affected by South Africa’s apartheid laws, I don’t take for granted the fact that my parents didn’t have as many options as I do today.

Not only were they barred from libraries that had a ‘whites in attendance only’ policy, but the books that they were allowed to borrow, left a lot to desire, in terms of content and quality. In spite of this, my parents somehow always made sure that I did have the best reading material.

Not only that, but they made sure that the library became a place I could run to whenever I wanted to leave the real world behind.

Today, thanks to the girls who bullied me, my parents who encouraged me and the wonderful librarians who always recommended new books to me, I’m the sum of all of their knowledge and teachings.

And I, for one, have every intention of passing on the library’s magic to everyone and anyone who cares to listen.

Happy South African Library Week lovely libraries and librarians of South Africa.

Never stop doing what you’re doing.

The world needs more custodians like you.

Tammy February blogs at bookfairyhaven.blogspot.com and tweets under the name Tammy24_7

This column originally appeared here: www.women24.com/BooksAndAstrology/News/Why-libraries-rock-20130320

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