Hardly a day goes by without us hearing of the pressures on libraries with the threat of closure hanging over many.
It's a pleasure therefore to report on one that's very much alive. The Central Libary at Stockton-on-Tees reopened on 1 November after an extensive refurbishment. The building hasn't changed but the refurbishment has provided a library to be proud of.
The Library was officially opened on 14th November by historian and best selling author Philippa Gregory.
Prior to the opening ceremony Philippa gave a talk to an audience and signed copies of her books in the Library's packed lecture hall. She recounted the importance of libraries in her life from childhood in 1960s Bristol to becoming a historian and best selling author.
At Sussex University Philippa read English Literature but she was 'hooked' on History by her Professor's dramatic introduction to the subject. 'History does not repeat itself' was the lesson she has never forgotten. At Edinburgh University she studied Gothic heroines and in particular the disempowerment of women in the 1800s. Her PhD research took her all over the country to compile a 'best seller' list from library catalogues. Expecting to find only 10 relevant catalogues there turned out to be 64. Noone has ever guessed the title of the book that topped the list she produced from her research.
When Maggie Thatcher froze the courses for 18th century literature historians, Philippa switched to writing historical novels - all based on women overlooked in British history. A reference to the launching of a ship called Mary Boleyn gave Philippa the idea which resulted in 'The Other Boleyn Girl' which was later to become a TV drama and a major film.
After her talk Philippa signed copies of her books (hard- and paperbacked) for members of the audience.
You can find details about all her Tudor novels and those she has also written on the Plantagenets on her website www.philippagregory.com