Long Live the Library
It was Saturday and I had work to do, but the house was a mess and the kids were hell-bent on making it messier. It’s a small place with no study so I usually work at the kitchen table. I wondered where best to escape to for some peace; a café tempted, but I had lots of books with me so needed to spread out and find somewhere quiet to concentrate.
A little further contemplation led me to the local library, where I roamed around looking about for a desk. The reference library downstairs was just the place; it had a choice of solitary desks, round tables and even ‘egg’ chairs to snuggle into. I found a big desk in a quiet corner, with shelves for my books and plug sockets for my laptop. The atmosphere was studious amongst the other lone workers with their heads down and surrounding bookshelves of reference materials. Being there reminded me of an old feeling, when I felt like a writer, an analyst, an academic.
It took me back to the time I spent in such atmospheric institutions in London during university. Having access to the bright modern vastness of KCL’s Maughan Library and the old dusty shelf-crammed place at UCL was a privilege. But the best by far was a membership to the British Library itself. It was during my final year, and my tutor had to write to request that my friend and I were granted a 12-month membership. Our favourite place there was the Rare Books Room. So rare and precious were its items that you had to take your possessions inside in a transparent bag and could only write with pencils, as ink was an absolute no-no. Inside I remember long rows of desks (mahogany, I think) with reading lamps and hefty green leather chairs that meant academic business. Being so close to items like the Magna Carta and knowing that every book I needed for reference was just a request away made my chest fill like a peacock’s and my brain feel like it was at least 10 times the size.
Thank goodness for libraries, their stocks and the cerebral leg-up they give their visitors. Long may they live.
Sophie McClelland is a copy-editor from Wales who moved to Perth in 2012 after a decade in London where she attained an English degree at Kings College London and spent many happy years working for an independent publisher. She has two young children and ‘Dependence Day’ is her first short story.