Tuesday 4 September 2012

Tuesday Ten

I went to the library in the town where I work today, to see what books they had from the reading list from the new A-level unit we're starting next week. I was quite excited because I adored my local library as a child and this one is in a big brick building in the town centre, so I thought it was going to be comparable.

Unfortunately, it was not. I should have realised that in a town roughly a tenth of the size, and against the background of cuts from the last few years, the library was not going to be all that. But it was a bit depressing, tbh. They had a very small amount of History books and nothing on Italy, this year's specialist subject.

Driving home, I started to think about all the things I loved about the library as a child.

1. It was orange. Acres of orange carpet with white walls and orange signage, everywhere. Oddly comforting.
2. It was HUGE. This was Portsmouth Central Library, and it was over four floors, and airy and open plan and light. Nobody could ever run out of things to read.
3. It was one of the few places as a child that I felt I was a success. I graduated from the child/teen fiction basement (with a whole wall of glass windows) to the adult fiction ground floor before I was a teenager and it felt like an achievement. I'd leave every month with my maximum allowance of books, and read them all. I was *so* pleased when a particular birthday came (I forget which one) and my allowance went up.
4. There was a cafe at the top - the Crow's Nest - which was extremely posh. Special Occasions Only. There were rooms up there were I had to go for my piano exams, too.
5. There was a local history bit that you had to check in to, and my friend Jenni and I used to go and look up who had lived in our houses before we did. I found out that our house had been a vicarage for a church that no longer existed. I think this gave me a real passion for history because it's the first time I can remember thinking about the people who had walked on those floors before I did, which is one of my favourite daydreams when I visit a historic place.
6. There were funny little study rooms on the second floor. You had to book them. I can't remember their names - I want to say cartels but that's not it. Anyway. I remember booking one out to study in as an A-level student and feeling so grown up because only university students studied in the central library. By sixth form, that may have been my main reason for going there.
7. By my mid-teens they had a great collection of CDs and this is where I found one of my favourite albums of all time, Jam by Little Angels. I kept it checked out for as many times in a row as I was allowed.
8. I discovered so many great writers there. The one that rises to the top of my mind is Graham Greene. I used to trawl the fiction for new authors, spurned sci-fi and detective novels in favour of what I suppose you'd call literary fiction, and particularly delighted in anything that might shock Mother Hand. Nabokov's Lolita, and Rushdie's Midnight's Children; though I never managed to read the latter.
9. It kept me supplied in cook books of every variety. 
10. It had a revolving door, and was always warm.

I expect it wasn't really that big, not really that airy, I didn't read quite that much and the cafe wasn't really that posh. But really, it must have been my most favourite place as a child because my memories of it are very strong. Mother Hand worked there when she was pregnant with me, so I always felt an affinity with the place.

It's sad that libraries aren't like that for me now. Gone are the days when I can go and check out five or six fiction books and read them in a month - the last time I can remember doing that was when I lived with Father Hand and discovered Ian Rankin. I have no cause to go and study in one and my local one is a bit depressing, though better than the one where I work (even our school library is better than that one, sadly). But, I have decided that if I can't get a book on Kindle and it's not one I need for reference for school, it must come from the library in future - while it still can.

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