Monday, 24 October 2005

Library Virgin

Today I switched off my computer and walked to the library. I could have used Amazon and my ever trusting plastic but decided I could save some money and not add more books to our bookshelves. I'd like to say it was for good eco reasons I'd decided upon the route involving effort but alas it is due to lower back pain that I suddenly have once again. A hot bath didn't do much so I decided walking would be healing.

In the UK, more and more libraries have websites so that you can look up a book to see if it is in and other such services. Having seen 84 Charing Cross Road I now wanted to read the book. Especially now I am considering what to do with my own Kebab Correspondence. A copy was available at the main library.

I finally had to ask the Librarian (are they called that anymore?) where I might find it on the bookshelves as I had scoured high and low. He sat at his computer desk and as I said "84 Charing Cross Road by..." he replied with a knowing "ah yes" as if he was part of the club and knew that this was a most excellent book. As he consulted the screen, I noticed his name was one letter away from a very famously disgraced MP from the 1980s. I sat there trying not to grin and trying to think of something witty to say with regard to prostitutes and the particular fetish this MP had but managed to keep it to myself.

Eventually Mr MP disguised as a Librarian assures me they don't have the book. Even though I had just looked it up online? He has nothing to say and there is no point me pushing him. He finds out where there are copies and they are both newly out. He then tells me in his knowing way that it was published in 1971. As if this was so frightfully long ago and what am I doing expecting to find a copy in a public library. I really don't know what he meant and eventually he located a copy in the nether regions of our huge County. He could get it in for me he said. The thought that this was a dirty old paperback circulating since 1971 with missing pages suddenly didn't seem too appealing. Thanking him I said I'd come back if I wanted him to order it in.

Looking around the shelves for other reading matter I was suddenly struck by all the wonderful books you can find. Although I have used libraries all my life and always taken the kids there it never seemed to have exciting up to date books. I remember my commuting days before I had kids when I would scour WH Smith at the train station eagerly awaiting the latest Virago publication, especially the Maya Angelou series. Now standing in library, I was transported back in time and filled with excitement.

I found a vacant staircase to sit, in a straight back way, to start reading "Aunt Edna's Guide to Paradise" by Keith Sharp. Very strange so far. Off beat with references to modern day life and politics, great literary works and authors.

In the American section I found "Letter from New York" by Helene Hanff and another from the fiction section, "Provincial Daughter" by R M Dashwood.

On the way home I popped into almost every charity (second hand) shop, just in case someone has cast off their ancient 1971 book but alas. Even though I have plenty to read I succumbed to Waterstones and for £6.99 bought "84 Charing Cross Road".

At Thorntons I was able to buy 4 nice chocolates in a plastic bag for 99p. The nice young girl, who had taken a break from decorating chocolate messages onto chocolate disks, served me and knew better than to seal up the bag. My back ached so much but keeping on the move helped. I'd forgotten how dangerous it was to read a book whilst crossing busy roads.

At home I found a position that was comfortable enough, curled up on my side, and finished reading it right through. I cried! Am now part-way through "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" which is Helene's account of her first ever trip to London which was after the book was published in the States.

Original Comments:

Cheryl said...
Jealous. We have a town library the size of a school classroom.
Stairwells (sigh)
An American Section (sigh).
Whats the light like? How new is the wood? How does it smell; of carpet, new wood, old wood, polish, books?
Jealous. Oh, I said that. Sigh.
Monday, October 24, 2005 10:49:00 PM
MrsDoF said...
How right you are to keep moving when the back aches. Been there, done that!

Ah, good books. The library is such a great place to be. Yet I own many books that were circulated through the library for a great part of their lives, and still in fine condition.
This is what the Internet has brought us, the ability to own more and more stuff!
Monday, October 24, 2005 10:52:00 PM
doris said...
Awwww Cheryl .... you are just going to have to come visit it and see for yourself!

It is a massive building built in the 1870s and very typically Victorian with grand entrance and engravings outside. Up the steps, through the massive wooden doors and there is a cast iron umbrella stand with about 12 rings to stand umbrellas in. Funnily I was holding a large umbrella today and contemplated whether it would still be there when I came out!

Inside there is something wrong about the layout. Sure there might be an American section but it only consists of one whole bookcase, which I know at least is something, but there is something lacking. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that this main library is to move into a modern building and so they are out of sorts. I feel that for a main library it is woefully lacking, but today the contents excited me.

There is not only an upsatirs - but that is not for the public - but there is also an antiquated upper area which you can see from downstairs and here you can see the old wooden made to fit bookcases stuffed to the brim with antiquarian books, and wooden and iron railings.

It is a very grand building on the inside with high ceilings and the rest of it is used for other purposes. There are so many little architectural features that my problem is that every time up until now I have concentrated on them rather than the books.

The smell is rather neutral, and if any, then it is an old building smell with a faint smell of old wood.

Thanks MrsDOF for the reassurance I have done the right thing for my back today. I have yet to toddle over to your blog to see your anniversary pics :-)
Monday, October 24, 2005 11:59:00 PM
Milt Bogs said...
The beaty of libraries is that you can go in and request a book that nobody has ever heard of and they'll get it for you. You fill in a form and then they send you a postcard telling you that the book has arrived. By then of course you've forgotten that you asked them to get it for you in the first place. It makes the librarians feel good though. I do it all the time.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005 1:29:00 AM
jane said...
I'm sorry your back is hurting. Our library is huge, but the newer books are always checked out.
Thank you for taking us with you on your day. You make me feel as though I'm right there with you. Yes, even while we ate yummy chocolates!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005 2:05:00 AM
Host of Spirits said...
Hi Doris, I popped over to say thank you for visiting my blog but now I am soooooooo curious about that book. I've never actually heard of it but will now go on a search to find what all the mystery is about

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 1:50:00 PM
Jo said...
'84 Charing Cross Road' - a great book. Very romantic and moving. Wasn't there a film with Anthony Hopkins? And who was the woman in it. Anne Bancroft maybe? Can't recall just now.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005 11:08:00 AM
Library Lady said...
Sorry you didn't get a helpful librarian. They do still exist and we do call ourselves just that!

What you may have gotten there is someone who ACTS as a librarian, but is a paraprofessional of some kind. I don't know what the state of library budgets is in the UK, but if it's anything like those in the US, it's pathetic!

(Or, it just may have been a day when he'd been dealing with a lot of loonies who request books and then, after the librarian has spent time finding them, never comes in to get them, eh, Milt?)

I do own a lot of books at home, but they're things I want to read over and over again. Usually after I've gotten them from the library first! After all, there have to be some special benefits to being the librarian....
Friday, October 28, 2005 1:30:00 AM
Z said...
Highly, highly recommend a book called CLOUD ATLAS. You won't regret it.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005 10:56:00 AM

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