I loved libraries as a kid. The first one I remember was a small branch in the suburb where I grew up, no more than a single room. I would come in on Wednesdays after school when they were open. I could only take home three books at a time, but I really wanted all of them—from encyclopaedias to novels. After the librarian recorded the loans in her paper register, I’d put the books in an old plastic groceries bag and skip back home to read.
Later on, I started taking the tram to the main branch in the city centre. It spanned several floors of a historic building just off the main square. The parquet floors creaked under my feet as I passed through a dozen heavy doors that separated the different parts of the collection until I found the nook with all of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, hoping that one that I hadn’t yet read would be available.
At university, I used the on-campus library focused on literature related to computer science. Back in the public library, I had my favourite sections. Here, I wanted to read everything. Each book was interesting in its own way and an opportunity to learn something new. We used to hang out in the reading rooms with friends and work on coursework together.
I graduated and moved countries and got a full-time job. For the first time, I was lucky enough to be able to afford to buy all the books I wanted to read—from second-hand and regular bookshops. Having books delivered right to my doorstep and not having to worry about returning them was pretty convenient. I hadn’t even signed up for a reader’s pass. I no longer needed the library.
About a year ago, I hit a wall editing my novel. I found it more and more challenging to focus at my home. So I Googled ‘places to work from for free in London,’ as one does. British Library came up first on the list. It dawned on me that I hadn’t been to the library for years. I thought, Why not?
I signed up for a reader’s pass and went in the next day. It might have been one of the best things I did last year.
Contrary to popular belief, lots of people that come to the library aren’t there for the books. They come in to study or work on their manuscripts and research papers and even businesses. The best bit is that you’re surrounded by people that are working hard, and even though you don’t really know each other and can’t talk to each other in the reading rooms, an unspoken connection hangs in the air: we’re in this together.
Every now and then, someone starts questioning the funding that public libraries receive. Why do we even need libraries when everything soon will be on the internet?
I, too, used to think that libraries were for borrowing books, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Libraries are places to be amongst books and book lovers. They have all you need to know to get started working on something and give you space to actually start working on it.
These days, if I ever get anything productive done, it happens in the library.
What I Am Reading
I’m still working my way through Lethal White by Robert Galbraith / J. K. Rowling. In addition to that, I picked up this rather spiffy Barnes & Noble leather-bound edition of Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales.
Most of them are surprisingly short. I recognise so many of these folk tales that have been told and retold many times since Brothers Grimm collected them in the 19th century. And although the versions that I read as a child differ considerably, it’s fascinating to read these.
I also read these short stories:
- Cut by Catherine Lacey
- Northeast Regional by Emma Cline
- The Escape by John L’Heureux
- Poetry by Greg Jackson
- New Rose Hotel by William Gibson
- Phoenix by Chuck Palahniuk
- The Winter Market by William Gibson
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