This Valentine’s season, Mills & Boon have partnered with The Reading Agency to champion mobile libraries and celebrate the month of romance. Over 70 mobile libraries around the UK are taking part in the #RomanceOnTheRoad campaign, which runs from the 6th – 20th February. Shirley Jump, one of our wonderful authors in the campaign, makes a confession about her love of reading…
All my life, I have loved to read. If you look at my bedside table, there are usually a dozen books there, in various stages of being read, another dozen or so underneath, and hundreds on the bookshelves lining my living room walls. I started reading very young, and was a voracious reader, so much so that my middle school reading teacher ordered a special set of reading books and exercises to challenge me—because I’d finished the entire year’s program in the first quarter of the school year.
When I was young, I didn’t have a book budget, so I’d go to my hometown library every weekend. It was inside the town hall, and up a long winding marble staircase. I would climb those stairs, inhaling the scent of history and old books, then spend hours in the library, collecting new stories to read.
I’d take them home, read one until the wee hours of the morning, then start the next one. I loved those books—Black Beauty, Little Women, The Secret Garden—and hated parting with them. Which meant I didn’t always return them in a timely manner.
One summer, I had fourteen overdue books. And when I say overdue, I mean so overdue, they’d sent me the bill to buy them all. It was something like a hundred dollars (this was more than thirty years ago). My mom drove me down there, and I walked inside, with as many as I could carry on my first trip up the stairs. Maybe five or six books. I set them down, never making eye contact, and skulked out of there, then returned with the rest of them. The librarian looked at me, looked at the giant pile of overdue books, and said, “You must be Shirley.”
Uh, yeah. Guilty as charged.
Thankfully, the library only charged me a fine, one I earned with a couple weeks of babysitting. I’ve always felt bad about keeping those books for so long. I felt like I was denying others the joy of reading those stories that I had loved so much, I couldn’t bear to part with them. So, to my hometown librarian, I’m sorry. Thank you for directing me to books so wonderful, I wanted them to forever be a part of my life. Just know I loved those books, read them more than once, and if I still owe you a fine, I’d be glad to repay it with interest. 🙂