MONDAY My friend Jon, a publisher, has donated 50 books to the tiny children's library at my new home, a residential trust for overseas students and their families in Bloomsbury, central London. My husband is studying and I have time on my hands, so I have volunteered to be the librarian. Not a difficult task - open two hours a week, the library has just 1,000 books for 75 largely uninterested children.
I have mail-dropped every resident family, announcing that new books will be available this week. Will anyone care? Nicola, children's book professional, dreams of children reading complex, sensitive texts. Nicola, emergent librarian, is desperate for them to read anything at all.
TUESDAY At 7pm, I unlock the 4ftx10ft library and arrange the 30 new books for school-age children. I am gazing longingly at the door, willing a child to enter, when a fellow resident, a student teacher, arrives. She borrows two new poetry collections. I radiate gratitude, even when she sneezes repeatedly. Then comes a mother, returning long-overdue titles. No children. But two customrs is two more than show up on many Tuesday nights.
WEDNESDAY I wake with a sore throat and an inability to breathe through my nose. "Rest," says my husband, but my toddler thinks otherwise.
THURSDAY I have promised a read-aloud session and snacks for the under-fives in the library at 4pm. "Can't do it," I croak to my husband. "I'll read," he promises. "You do the rest." At 4pm we head downstairs with books, apples, breadsticks, preservative-free teddy-shaped crisps and, of course, toddler. Two mothers and three children are waiting, and my spirits leap. More children join the group, and the reading begins. I frantically slice apples, and pile returned books in one corner. Then the children fall upon the food and the mothers fall upon the books. Five o'clock passes quickly. Ten mothers and 15 children have come, borrowed all the new books, and they want a weeklyreading session.
FRIDAY "I want to go to our library," announces my toddler. And the other children? I'll find out next week.
Nicola Robinson is a children's book critic and editor