Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Stroud: 'Libraries were always there for me"

"Libraries are the place where the future is made."

I always loved libraries as a kid, My very first memories, of probably when I was about five, is going to Bedford Library in England.

And all one summer I had to go and we had a kind of reading challenge we had to read six or eight books. I would be going back and forth, back and forth up these winding stairs into the library It was very exciting.  I got a little certificate with a stamp. I remember being being pretty pleased about it.

Right from the beginning, libraries were there for me.

[Do you still have the stamp?]

Do you know, probably we do somewhere, because my parents never throw anything away, so it's in the archives somewhere.

Libraries were essential for me. I came from a family where books were important, so we had books at home, as well.

I was fortunate, but libraries were key, because you could go out there, you could experiment. You could pick up books where you weren't sure if you were going to like it.

You could try it, if you like it, great, if you don't, no problem.You send it back. So there's that sort of flexibility, an infinite variety of stuff you can experiment with.

Now I'm a jaded adult and I've got two lovely children, who are seven and four,  so now I go to the library mainly with them and it's kind of different now, because I'll sit in the corner on a cushion and they go scurrying around picking up things. We read it in the library, we sift a few out and we  take them home. 

It's the same again. They're doing the same thing that I did all those years ago. So, everything's gone full circle.

There was one lady called Mrs. Jecks, who was the  librarian at my secondary school when I was kind of eleven or twelve upwards.  And she was there and she was very helpful, the kind of person that you could go to  and ask questions... everything you need from a librarian.

The funny thing is, she's is still there, at the same school now. And I go back to the school  as an author and talk to the kids and Mrs Jecks is still there, doing the same things. There's that lovely continuity, that love of books that just keeps going through the years.

I visit libraries more as an adult, I guess, than even as a kid. It's, in a way,  the primary venue that I go to as an author when I'm out and about.

Libraries are one of those central points in my life, I guess. The more I think about it, the more important I think they are!

[On budget cuts]

Well, the budgets cuts are happening the UK as well as in America and it's causing a great stink over there, as well. I think it's terribly short-sighted, I mean clearly everyone is under pressure with budgets across  the whole economy.  

I understand that.

And there are cases where there are libraries maybe that no one goes to, and they are perhaps more vulnerable than others, but in general terms the library is a place which is where the future is made, where the kids are given this chance to express and fulfill their potential.

So it's terribly short-sighted to take funding away. Like most authors, I'm very anxious about it.

[On censorship]

Like most authors, I'm against censorship, per se. I mean, I think it ...

One of the things about libraries, it's a democratic space. You go in there and as a child or an adult, no one is forcing you to read any of the books on the shelves.

The fact that there may be books out there which are, perhaps, too old for a certain age group or have certain opinions that are not your own, shouldn't be that much of a challenge to you. You find books that appeal to you and you read them.

Essentially, it's undemocratic to to seek to censor. I oppose  it in every instance, even if there are books that I find overly violent or vaguely  not to my taste.

I'm happy not to read them.  

Jonathan Stroud website

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Book Title: 

Bartimaeus Trilogy