No school library? Surely not. Anything but that.
The library was my earliest escape; a room where I could transport myself to wherever I wanted to be.
The moon at morning tea. Africa at lunch. Under the sea on a hot afternoon in class.
I was a library dreamer and often that dreaming would continue for the rest of the day, playing out imaginary dialogue in my head as I walked home.
Ask me who the librarian was now and there would be no hesitation. That's easy. Mrs Library Harvey. There's no forgetting her and the magical shelves she curated.
I inhaled books growing up, and exhaled stories of my own. Characters and landscapes of my making written on computer paper and stapled together with my name and book title scribbled on the front.
Adventurers looking for a hidden mask in the jungle. A world fought over by talking cats and dogs. Miniature medieval realms in sandcastles on the beach.
All inspired in some way by whatever book I was reading at the time. A book I chose from the library. Me. Not my teacher or my parents.
Take anything but that freedom and opportunity, please.
I was never escaping from anything in particular, but I know some kids are. Bullying. Trouble at home. Loneliness.
The library is almost always welcoming. It's quiet, warm and full of isolated spots where you won't be interrupted or questioned. Tell me that's not rarer now than it has ever been.
So, move anything but the library. Anything.
But that's precisely the problem, isn't it? There isn't anything else for some schools in Tauranga now. All the classrooms and buildings are full, and the rolls keep growing. There is no more space.
As I reported today, Golden Sands is the latest local primary school forced to turn its library into a classroom. The books have been moved to a smaller space temporarily.
It's not alone, other schools in Tauranga have had to do the same. In one case, the move has happened over and over again in the space of six years. That particular school, Te Akau Ki Pāpāmoa, is currently without a library and its books are in storage.
It is not the schools' fault. Teachers and principals are coming up with innovative ways to make sure books are still available to their students.
They have no choice but to move the library. You can't teach a class of 5-year-olds in the tuck shop, can you? Or on a cold wooden floor in the hall. And, as some people seem to forget, schools cannot just turn away children who live in-zone.
It appears Tauranga's population growth has caught everyone by surprise.
This is the latest and possibly clearest example of how unprepared our schools are, and the Ministry of Education needs to act fast to catch up.
More schools. More teachers. More classrooms.
This isn't about the benefits of reading books at a young age, that's an argument I don't need to make.
This is about the school library. It is not a luxury. It's an escape room that is always there, in the same place, should you need it.
A lot of kids do. They rely on it. Others, like primary-school-aged me, treasure it.
Every school should have one.