THE LOVE OF LIBRARIES
I was asked this morning what it is I love about libraries. Here is my response. And I am adding an image that appeared on twitter today. It seems to illustrate my story.
I grew up in Launceston where the public library was in an elegant Georgian building, in one corner of which was a separate children’s library. It had a wonderful goldfish tank. It was a magical place with avenues of books and books and books on shelves. I could go into a kind of trance. My older sister was a great reader and she used to borrow books from the children’s library. She borrowed books by Georgette Heyer and Charles Dickens – among others, but these were the names I knew. Occasionally I would go there with her, but because I was not yet seven, I was not allowed to be a member, not allowed to borrow books. I became so distressed about this that my father decided to take me into the adult library next door where he said I could choose a book and use his card. So, holding my father’s hand, I moved on air along the pavement from one level of paradise where I was forbidden to taste the fruit, to a higher level where I could pick my own apple. This was a golden place in which the shining shelves of books went forever up into a high vastness. We climbed a spiral staircase. Somewhere at the top of this my father found for me the works of Charles Dickens, as I had requested. Choose one, he said. You can have any one you like. I looked for good pictures, and I found Dolly Varden in ‘Barnaby Rudge’. This was it. I carried it down to the desk, and I borrowed ‘Barnaby Rudge’. I don’t remember many occasions on which I wept, during my childhood. But I do recall the great sorrow and the terrible tears I shed as I was later confronted by the text of ‘Barnaby Rudge’. For although I could read quite a few of the words, I could make no sense at all of any of it.