Me and my library;Open All Hours;TES Campaign;The TES libraries campaign

16th July 1999 at 01:00
My favourite library has closed. It was called the Yokey Library and it was in a rundown part of Glasgow and it was the place to hang out. It was a cool place to be.

There were quiet parts where you could go and read, but one area was like a youth club. Nobody was saying: "shush", people were saying: "make some noise". It had computer games and was very up to date, and the kids really cared about the place. For some teenagers being in a library is uncool, but there it was where the boys and girls had their dates.

I went a couple of times to read my poetry to them, and they read poetry they had written to me, and also little raps they had written.

I love libraries. Apart from visiting them, I perform in them a lot. I like to see them come to life in the evening and turn into a performance space. I wrote a poem about when I was at school and if I wanted to date the cool girls I would date them in the library. It's called "Library ology" and begins: "I have a date with Sue Ling LeeWe're meeting at the libraryAt 5 o'clock by historyI'll show her some mythologyAnd if we have the energyWe'll check out some theologyAnd if there is good chemistryWe'll dance by musicology..."

When I read, I make all these very academic words sound really sexy.

I left school in Perry Barr in Birmingham at 13 unable to read or write. I got into trouble with the police and was in and out of approved school. The educational system threw me out so where was I to go? The library was the only place, so that's where I went and I taught myself. That's why I'm so passionate about libraries. I come from the oral tradition of poetry. Then I got interested in Shelley and of course that brought me into the library.

Now they call me a respected poet and my work is used for the Open University, but I didn't learn to write until I was 20 and then I found I was dyslexic.

Because I am very political, and realised that any time dictators want to clamp down on people one of the first things they do is close the libraries and burn the books.

"Library ology" appears in "Funky Chickens", a collection of Benjamin Zephaniah's poetry published by Puffin

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