‘I’m glad I caught you, Elisabeth. I’ve got a proposal for you…’
Words to stir anyone’s heart. In this case not from Tom Hiddleston (I keep hoping) but the librarian at Macclesfield Library where I do my Tuesday morning writing session. She asked me if I would be interested in taking part in the Romance on the Road campaign organised jointly by Mills & Boon, The Reading Agency and the Mobile Library Service.
Mills & Boon have had a long involvement with mobile libraries but I didn’t know until I started looking into the campaign that Charles Boon, one of the founders, worked in a mobile library before going into partnership and starting the publishing house.
With all that in mind, and the chance to spread the Mills & Boon love for Valentine’s Day, how could I resist!
As a result, earlier this week found me out bright and early in Cheshire , heading down country lanes that got smaller and more twisty to meet up with Jon and the mobile library. While over 70 mobile libraries are taking part in the event around the country, Cheshire East has been chosen to be one of the ‘Fabulous Five’ with stickers, balloons,sashes for the driver, and gifts to give out to library users.
Our first rendezvous was in the car park of the Badger Inn Church Minshull . I waited, hoping I was in the right place and before long the car park had filled up with a group of eager readers, waiting with piles of books. I can imagine that if I lived there the tri-weekly visit would be a real highlight for me. I was excited even waiting once! The library van arrived decorated with stickers and a poster with my books in the window, the doors slid open and in we went to be greeted with bunting and shiny pink padded envelopes.
I had taken along some of my books to discuss and the villagers were particularly impressed with the cover of The Blacksmith’s Wife, especially when I mentioned I had asked for Aidan Turner as the cover model. They told me that inspired by the recent BBC adaption of Poldark, the village had got together and created a calendar featuring village men in Poldark-y poses. So far they’ve raised over £2000 which is incredible!
It was wonderful to meet such an enthusiastic crowd and I’m half tempted to move there, if only so I can join the ballroom dancing class!
If you’re wondering what I’m holding in the photos, they’re Valentine’s gifts that Mills & Boon had sent along. I had a box of packages waiting for me inside the library. It was very hard not to peek to find out which books were inside!
The residents of Church Minshull went off for their regular post-library coffee in the pub while I looked on enviously. While we waited for time to leave, we made a display of some of the copies of Mills & Boon titles that were in the library van.
Our next stops were at the two ends of Home Farm Park in Lea where we met residents who live on the park permanently (I was super impressed with Jon’s ability to reverse park in such small spots). It was a warm, sunny day so it was nice to stand around with light streaming in through the library door and be able to chat to borrowers (of library books, not small people living under the floorboards). One of the visitors told me her daughter lives just outside Macclesfield and is a keen reader of historical so I was pleased to be able to give her a copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge which is set in the area. We spent some time discussing our favourite historical authors and browsing the shelves (the library is impressively stocked with something to suit everyone- a real TARDIS).
I recommended my favourite author and managed to pick up a copy of a book I’ve been searching for in the process (well I couldn’t spend a morning in a library and not leave with something).
The van had to move on to the next stop and I needed to get back to carry on writing my new story. Before I said goodbye I did get to wear the sash that I had been coveting since I arrived.
The van goes out on three-weekly timetables around villages in Cheshire. The promotion is running until the 14th February and there are still plenty of gift bags to collect before Valentine’s Day itself so keep an eye out for the van with pink stickers heading your way!
Thank you Cheshire East Libraries for inviting me along. I had a lovely morning and it was great to see how well the library was used. I’m lucky to have always lived in towns where there is a library and made great use of it, from nipping in on the way home from school as a teenager to fill in time before the bus (and often missing the next as a result of getting absorbed in a book) to taking my own young children as welcome moment of sanity amid sleepless nights and PND. Not everyone is so lucky to have a library on their doorstep and the Mobile Library Service provides a wonderful way of accessing books for those living too far to get to one regularly. With funding cuts and libraries being threatened increasingly with closure, keeping services like this going will be so important to people living in more isolated areas.
Libraries, exploring and Mills & Boon- three of my favourite things in one day!
The Reading Agency is a charity whose aim is to inspire more people to read. They do a superb job of encouraging people of all ages to pick up a book and targeting groups who might not have access otherwise. You can find out more of what they do here.