My favourite library is always changing. When I was small, it vacillated between the hushed dark of the Sierra Madre Public Library, with its polished wood shelves and its stern librarians, and the tiny, mobile library at the edge of the parking lot in a small town in the High Desert, where I most found myself. There was no hush here. You could hardly fit more than one or two readers inside. The air was filled with sand dust and the librarians let me take out a shopping bag full of books at a time, when they realised I could come in only once a week or so. It is not a huge achievement to say that I read the entire children’s section, and then moved on to consume their gothics – it is thanks to the librarians of Lucerne Valley that I found Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney — and Charlotte Bronte – and then on to their thrillers, their mysteries. They did not censor reading. They encouraged experimentation, even though their stock was extremely limited, and they often thanked me for “rotating” what stock their way, by checking things that that, perhaps, few had. It’s long gone now, but libraries will always be my safe place. Here, in London, it is still the same.
Here in London, my favourite library is a far cry from a dusty desert. Whenever I can, I trundle in to the wonderful Wellcome Collection, to stare at their collections, which include “medical oddities and artefacts”, gape at the magnificent new Reading Room, and then plug myself in at a long table in the Wellcome Library. Here’s a little more about it, on The Prime Writers site:
Three cheers for libraries – hip hip!