I have been trying all day to think how I would write about libraries.
There is too much.
The libraries of Edinburgh, I love them.
Central Library – the children’s library, which is the first library I remember, from when I was three or four and had just learned how to read; the non-fiction library, which I still love better than Google for doing odd bits of research: the fiction library (not especially exciting at Central, but still like any library, great to browse along the shelves and find an unexpected treasure or three). I had two blue cards for the children’s library, the cards Edinburgh Libraries used to issue to pre-school children.
Morningside Library, the first library that I used to go to by myself (we lived on Bruntsfield Place till I was 14, and Morningside Library was a trek, but considered safe enough by my parents as there was only Morningside Road itself to cross to reach it). A trek especially back uphill laden with books – but worth it. That was the first library where I got adult library cards, age 10, when my mum realised I was re-reading the books from the children’s library. I always loved the entrance, the big door-arch, and the feeling as I explored into the adult library that I was going backwards through the shelves to other worlds.
Newington Library, still in many ways my favourite library – the big room all one level, easy to wander from shelf to shelf, until finally fetching up at the soft chairs at the back by the window, to sit until the library was due to close, sifting through the books to pick out the ones that were going home with me and which I would read there and then. Also, on Saturdays, Newington Library was halfway from home to Blackford Hill, so a stopping point to collect an armful of books for Saturday afternoon reading in a sunny sheltered spot on the hill.
McDonald Road Library, my local library for nearly half my life: not as dramatic as Morningside or as comfortable as Newington or as huge as Central, but a good solid library with a big range, a great place to go and find books I hadn’t read yet.
And my current local library, Leith, notable for the domed ceiling and handy on my way home from work: I love the building. I like libraries. I need them less often than I did when I was a child or a teenager, but I always want them there. Libraries are like heaven for book-lovers: a heaven always within reach, accessible with a library card.
Yesterday was National Libraries Day. I visited Leith Library, borrowed a book, filled in a consultation form on the library cuts which Edinburgh Council plan to make, and learned that 2012 is the two-hundredth anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth. Happy birthday, sir, and many happy returns.
In a library.