Meg Bignell was a nurse and a weather presenter on the telly before she surrendered to a persistent desire to write. Since then she has been writing almost every day – bits and pieces here and there, either to earn a crust, to get something off her chest or to entertain herself. She has written three short films, mostly because she wanted to do some acting and no one else would cast her. She sings a bit too, occasionally writes and performs cabaret, but is mostly very busy being a mother to three and a wife (to one). She lives with her family on a dairy farm on Tasmania’s East Coast.
Words // Meg Bignell
I carry my State Library of Tasmania card at all times. It has been with me since I was four. My clever, book-loving mother made sure of that. The barcode on my card is a bit blurry and sometimes hard to scan. It doesn’t work in the automated check-out system but for some reason I don’t want the librarian to issue me with a new one. Is it nostalgia? Superstition? Or do I feel that to discard it would be rude and unfair, given the trips we’ve taken together and fun we have had?
That barcode has taken me from the Hundred Acre Woods to Pemberley, from flower fairies to water babies, Nancy Drew to Nina Stibbe. It has helped populate my memory with countless characters, places, words and worlds. It has fed my imagination and contributed to my lasting passion for language and its possibilities.
When I was very small, the little library that was housed alongside the council chambers in my home town in Tasmania was moved into a modern, purpose-built building. The fancy new design was like nothing our town had ever seen. It had a domed turrety thing and lots of natural light and doors that swooshed. It was trimmed with pink and purple paint. The whole town was excited.
It was in that library that I found a Judy Blume book I hadn’t read. I devoured Judy Blume books like the hungry teenager I was. Most of them I had read twice. So to discover a new one was like today’s children finding a new Harry Potter. It was called Tiger Eyes and I savoured every word.
These days, I use libraries less to borrow books and more as places to work. They are warm, with plenty of power points, reliable wifi and plenty of research material on the stacks. And also in the people. If a writer is struggling with certain aspects of characterisation, I would encourage them to spend a few hours in their local library. See the tweedy man muttering to himself while he writes pages of complicated looking formulae? What do you think he is trying to solve? And that young woman with the beautiful posture who scans the performing arts section? Is she a ballerina or did something get in the way of her dreams? Look at the way that impeccably dressed woman puts her gloves on to read the Country Life magazines, and the honest, generous sound of that beardy man’s laugh.
And see that woman who has put her three small children into the beanbags with a pile of books, and flopped into a squashy chair for a little snooze? That was me. I got my children their library cards before they turned four.
From May 22-24 is Library and Information Week, an opportunity for libraries and library users to celebrate the invaluable contribution that libraries make to society. Click here for more information.