International Women’s Day: How a love of libraries made me the woman I am today

I loved going to my local library as a small child,  

it really was a treat,  

seeing all the books on the shelves looking ever so sweet.

A woman is sat in an armchair in a library, next to a shelf of books. She is reading a copy of Alice in Wonderland.

The quietness of the space, all those books on the shelves, waiting to be chosen and read… 

Worlds of wonders written on those pages, where would I be taken today? I didn’t know but I really could not wait to take any book off from the shelves, open the pages and hold them in my hands like I had found a piece of small treasure. 

Going to the library for me and my siblings felt as if we were going on an adventure, and we were lucky enough to be taken regularly by our parents on most Saturday mornings. Having a library card meant that I had access to so many books that I might have otherwise missed out on reading. Most importantly, it was where I could read stories written by spectacular female authors, and their dynamic characters.

These worlds, stories, and characters have inspired a love of creativity that I hold dear and bring with me into every Lyrici Arts project. 

The excitement of going to the library built up during the week, and by Saturday morning, we were racing to the front door. Once inside the library, the foyer area normally had a mini exhibition of some sorts there, but I was more interested in walking through the automatic entrance door that would take us to the main library. 

Once through that door, you were greeted by the main desk, and we were eager to chat with the library staff, giving in the books we had pored over the week before. Giving in your books meant that there was now space on your card to get out shining new ones!  

Borrowed books given back, I would then find myself walking quickly to the bright and cheery children’s library (if I could of run into the children’s library, I would have done!) This would be where my questions would begin – where should I start looking? Should I go left, or right? Should I start looking at the back or start at the beginning of the library? What books shall I look for today?  Would I find any adventure books of faraway lands where you could be anyone?  

Looking along all the shelves and reading the titles of the books was fascinating. These books unlocked a belief for me that we all can and should have the chance to tell our own stories, and stopping to flick through the pages of the chapters was so exciting for me. I loved how each writer wrote so differently, how they pulled in their own experiences, and the varying ways they observed the world through their words.

I also began to understand the vital community aspect that libraries play – from providing everyone with an approachable place to read and learn, to sparking imagination, to encouraging connection in the places we live. 

I was intrigued by the way in which different authors would use words to tell stories. What a great job to have! Would I be taken to a tea party, climb a tree to find different faraway lands or meet a dishevelled, accident-prone puppy affectionally known as What-a-Mess! 

Having to decide on what books to take home was so difficult, as we were only allowed to take home a certain amount. I could have stayed in there all day, too many books and not enough arms to carry them. Once our books had been checked out (with a thick, rubber stamp to tell us when they were due back), we could not wait to read them.  

This childlike love of reading has never left me. All those stories really do take you into so many different worlds and I still think that it is amazing that libraries can hold so many all under one roof. 

As I got older, this love of stories only grew, and I discovered authors such as Maya Angelou that made me think about my place in the world as a woman, and what I was eager to achieve in it!

Moving forward to today, and our love of books continues even now in our work. At Lyrici, we are all about telling stories through the modes of lyrical theatre. We believe that stories can connect us, inspire us, and entertain us. We have used library spaces for the projects that we have devised, by bringing high quality arts into these free, accessible community spaces.  

In 2017, we brought our arts project called Legacy to Medway libraries. Legacy was a season of free lyrical and literature events, all rooted in African and Caribbean culture. In 2019, we brought our arts project called The Classics – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to North Kent libraries. The Classics was a season of professional arts workshops, a touring ballet, and an interactive installation, all rooted in diversifying an arts project. 

For myself, and Keely (my wonderful sister and Co-Artistic Director), libraries were a true gift to us. It sparked a fire in us to be creative, to work in our community, to work with inspiring women, and to help inspire others. Libraries have helped to shape the woman I am today, and I hope these small pieces of treasure stay in our local communities forever, helping to guide women of the future. 

Happy International Women’s Day 2023! 

Words by Clara Augustus, Lyrici Arts Co-Artistic Director

Photography by Alison Lewis Photography 

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