ONE of my happiest childhood memories is of the local library. I was a precocious child; I’d learned to read at the age of three. Sitting on the sofa next to my mother while she taught my older brother, I acquired reading by osmosis.

At five I attended a nearby village school. Whilst the rest of my class struggled with Dick, Dora and a dodgy looking uncle who seemed to spend most of his life in a shed, I joined the older class tasked with helping slower readers.

On Saturday mornings while my mother did the shopping, I was deposited at the library in the care of the librarian. I loved it. I devoured every William book I could get my hands on. I now own an almost complete set and was delighted, along with a theatre full of nostalgic oldies (children being conspicuous by their absence), to relive my childhood in the company of Martin Jarvis at the Playhouse the other week.

By seven I had moved onto the enchanting world of Jeeves and Wooster; a world I recently introduced to my son, who being a child of a digital generation, couldn’t quite make the effort to read them himself, but was quite happy for me to read them to him, or for us to listen, on line, to radio dramatisations.

Books are so much more than words on a page. They transported me from my dull, humdrum suburban existence to one coloured by imagination, adventure and freedom. My house and family were eclipsed by eccentric visitors to Blandings Castle, Wooster’s unfailing incompetence and Jeeves’ ability to rectify any mishap.

Books are magical. Through fiction, I travelled in time to a mythical era between the wars; through books about the stars, planets and solar system, my son travels through time and space to the outer reaches of the universe.

Small wonder that feelings run deep over plans to relocate Salisbury library. I’d much rather borrow a book, knowing it had been read and loved by others, than buy a new, soulless paperback. For others libraries are company for the lonely; a gateway to leisure and information unfettered by wealth or social standing. They are places where children and parents can share discoveries; where community organisations can reach out to new audiences. And whether a king or a pauper, the same doors open, you receive the same welcome can borrow the same number of books and will pay the same fines for their late return.

Let’s hope the groundswell of library support the recent relocation controversy has unleashed results, in time, in a new library, improved facilities, more space for community groups and greater awareness of its benefits. Let’s hope too, that with the plans for the redevelopment of that part of the city in at least a third reincarnation, we all live long enough to enjoy it…