ONCE, in a library, I experienced a lovely, tiny act of kindness.

In the Mitchell Library I passed the best part of studying for my Masters, scanning microfiche and searching through dozens of old, yellowed and bound newspapers that were brought up on trolleys.Researching my dissertation was an expensive business and I was fairly poor but one had to hope it would lead to better things.

After several long afternoons toiling cross-eyed at the microfiche reader, the librarian had obviously taken pity on me. He sat the bill for all my printing and photocopying on the desk next to me. When I flipped it over to assess the squat, frowning number on the front there was a £10 note underneath.

This is my love letter to libraries and it must include a saucy wink to the librarians.

In a world where taking and selling are prime, librarians stand out. They exist only to give: to give the gift of knowledge and information and reading, which is the ultimate gift. If you are a reader the kingdom and everything in it is yours; librarians are the Ordnance Survey.

I wish I could remember the libraries my mother took me to when I was small. My first trip out, 10 days old and in a sling, was to Hornsby Public Library in Sydney to help Ma Stewart write a sociology essay, for which we gained a credit. It was another two long years before I had my own library card, which was soon bruised and battered by use.

I know we went every Saturday to whichever library was our local but I have no recollection of the buildings themselves. Just memories of the books and the smart hands that stamped them, then the afternoons spent reading.

I had a slightly itinerant childhood and it has left me with a need for strong attachments but lots of them. Thus, I am a library floozy. I love libraries - all of them.

On my first trip abroad alone I stared with envy at the elusive and exclusive Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University, built by Mr Elkins' mother following his loss on the Titanic, before heading back to the grand but welcoming Boston Public Library.

In New York, the main branch of the New York Public Library, in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, occupies the grandest address of all libraries - Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street.

In Sydney I had a fractious relationship with my flatmates. That is, I like to move as lightly footed as possible through the world but I felt, with these girls, I'd lost all rhythm.

Ultimo Library, just up the road, was a secret haven, away from the pass agg and the tension.

I have flirted with libraries in many countries - in Cambodia, where a man was collecting books obsessively, for sharing, in retort to the Khmer Rouge, which had destroyed so many. In Dublin and London and Mexico and a school library in Cuba.

Of all the libraries I have loved, my heart returns to Coatbridge. Really. The Carnegie Library on Academy Street, red sandstone with bricks stacked like the books inside. That was the backdrop of every Saturday morning, scooping as many novels as possible. The librarians were a little intimidating, in a positive way, and the stock very rarely refreshed. The floors were parquet and tackity, it had a particular smell. It was full of friends and safe.

Coatbridge Library has moved, to the new build Buchanan Centre on Main Street. It is part of a health centre and has carpets. It's loud and different. Modern. I have a new local library now, also a Carnegie and designed in a rather lovely Edwardian Baroque style.

That's the beauty of libraries, there, and why I love them. Wherever you are, you will have a local library, waiting and welcoming. A variety of constants.