Saturday, February 9, 2013

Libraries I have loved

Today - Saturday 9th February 2013 - is National Libraries Day, so I've been thinking about all the libraries I have known and loved (hmmm, I sound like Barry White talking about his lady friends...). Here are some of them.

Ley Hill County Combined School library. This is the first library I can remember using in my entire life. I particularly remember reading one thick volume - I think it was an encyclopaedia - which ended with a section speculating about the future of mankind. There was an illustration of a slim bald man with a skin-tight blue one-piece outfit on. This, opined the writer, was our future: since we have ostensibly been getting less hairy since our ancestors swung down from the trees, eventually we won't have any hair at all. And we will all wear form fitting performance fabrics. Perhaps there was some truth in this prediction; there is a lot more lycra around in 2013 than there was when I reading that book, back in 1974. But thankfully I still have my hair.

Chesham Library. Nowadays, this library is housed in a red-brick purpose-built building on Elgiva Lane in Chesham. When I first visited it, however, it was on the Broadway, in a much smaller building that became a shop in a later incarnation. I mainly remember the Broadway library because my mother took me there to take out a book about Fire. When I was a little girl I was very anxious about Fire, and very worried about the house burning down, so she decided to find a book which presented the positive side of fire - eg. smelting. I don't think it worked, because I still live in a house peppered with smoke alarms, but I can still remember the illustration of the smelting...

The Bodleian Library. I spent many hours in the Bod when I was studying for my degree, but I am sorry to say that the main thing I remember about my time there is the occasion when a friend and I nipped out of the reading room and sat on the windowsill on the venerable stone staircase, sharing a hipflask of brandy. Enough said.

Bad Münstereifel Stadtbücherei. When we moved to Germany in 2001, I was thrilled to discover that the local library had a small section of English books, as well as some brilliant German ones about local history and folklore. I joined forthwith - in fact I still have my library card somewhere. 

This brings me to:

Gemeentelijke Openbare Bibliotheek Tervuren. This library mainly stands out in my memory as a kind of mental torture. I managed with the German library in Münstereifel pretty well because my German was fairly fluent, but my Dutch was non-existent when we arrived in Flanders. I studied it at night classes for three years but of course, fluency is not achieved overnight. I joined the library with the intention of improving my Dutch by reading loads of books, but mostly my time there was spent wandering around looking at the thousands of fascinating volumes in miserable frustration!!! 

Strathearn Community Campus Library. One of the first things we did when we arrived in Scotland was to join the library. We hardly knew a soul locally and had no money so the library - and long walks - were our main entertainment that first summer. It has a super section of local history books, which was where I first came across the delightful tale of murder in Muthill, in which the crime was discovered after a small dog was observed trotting down the street with a rotting human leg in his mouth! It also has a section of Japanese manga, very popular with my daughter. The other section that is dear to my heart is the small shelf of just-returned books - a great hunting ground for recent acquisitions. I managed to snaffle Stephen King's 11.22.63 from that shortly after it came out, and I've just got Justin Cronin's The Twelve from the same place - in fact the book is sitting on the table less than two metres away from me as I write. 

And finally - last but most definitely not least -

Innerpeffray Library. This is the library in the photo above, which previous readers of this blog may recognise. It is the oldest lending library in Scotland, with books dating back to the 1500s, and the truly wondrous thing about it (apart from the wild lonely setting, the gentlemen's-club atmosphere and the nearby attraction of a church with a leper squint) is the fact that you are allowed to read the books. Yes, even the really old ones. I love Innerpeffray Library with a passion. If it were a person my husband would have stopped me going there by now...

Libraries - I love them. Love yours too! 

Above: a book yesterday. 

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