The local library I used to visit as a young child has recently closed down, prompting me to contemplate the many positive experiences I’ve had at libraries throughout the world.
Kents Moat Library was a tiny but vital community hub at the Poolway Shopping Centre which is now set for regeneration without it.
The lady who ran the library for many years was very good with children and introduced me to Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men series. The first book I ever borrowed was Mr Greedy, which must have been an influential tome as I do love cake! Apparently there’s a new version for grown-ups called Mr Greedy Eats Clean to Get Lean which I may have to check out…
My favourite library in the world is the New York Public Library. But the one in the most atmospheric location has got to be Leabharlann Oilean Chleire, the tiny library on Cape Clear Island, Ireland’s southernmost inhabited spot. Housed in a prefab building, it’s situated beneath the ruins of a 12th century church with spectacular views of the harbour. I came across it during the International Storytelling Festival on the island last year.
I used to volunteer at the Santa Susanna English Language Library in Rome. It was a lovely social place for Italian people and international expats to meet up at events like afternoon tea and book sales. I made lifelong friends there and donate the review books I’m given to the library.
Since moving to London, I’ve spent a lot of time at the fantastic British Library. I was given the opportunity to recite from Jane Eyre there for a special recording to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth and also met Sir Trevor McDonald at the library’s World Book Night celebration.
I must give a shout out to the Library of Birmingham, possibly the biggest library in Europe. This stunning building houses the Shakespeare Memorial Room, one of the most important Shakespeare collections in the world. Unfortunately it has to close on Sundays due to cuts but I’ll be glad to visit again next time I’m in my home town.
Literature should be accessible to all, something I bear in mind when writing deliberately unpretentious book reviews. Now a member of my local library in South East London, I look forward to the many benefits that will bring.
“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man” ― T.S. Eliot