A friend shared a Facebook post by Architectural Digest inviting the reader to “Step Inside the World’s Coolest Library“. The futuristically designed library in Tianjin, China, aptly nicknamed The Eye, is cool, lined from floor to cathedral high ceilings with bookshelves that follow the curved contours of the building and, most importantly for the avid reader, are stocked full of books.
The Tianjin Binhai Library set me thinking about the dozens of libraries I’ve visited over the years and fondly recalling my favourites. They may not be as architecturally impressive as Tianjin’s, but three libraries have left an indelible impression on me.
I grew up in Perth and as a child lived and went to primary school in Bayswater. The “Baysey Library” was the first public library for which I had a library card in my name! I loved visiting it in my early teens, working out the Dewey decimal card catalogues and locating titles on the shelves. I don’t recall any of the books I may have borrowed from the library, perhaps some science fiction, or a Biggles adventure (“Chocks away, Algy!”). It was a long time ago! But I do remember the joy of being surrounded by books and the sense of awe at the power of the words between their covers.
I lived in Brighton, England, for six years from 1987 to 1993 and loved visiting the public library, which in those days was adjacent to the Brighton Pavilion, the extravagant Indian inspired, seaside retreat built between 1815 and 1822 for George, Prince of Wales. In fact, the Pavilion’s old horse stables housed the library from the 1870s until 2005! It reeked, thankfully not of horses, but of history and knowledge and I frequently borrowed books from it and expanded my reading in my late 20s and early 30s. Brighton now has a new Jubilee Library. While I doubt it has the charm of the old “horse stables” library, I hope to visit it and revisit Brighton one day.
Waverley in the eastern suburbs of Sydney is my current local library. I have loaned countless books, CDs and DVDs from it over the years. But I will always associate it with visits with my son to find books for him, either for me to read to my son when he was very young, or to inspire him to do so on his own when he got older. Titles like the Alex Rider teen-spy series by Anthony Horowitz, which he devoured over one school holidays. (Oh, that I could inspire my now fifteen-year-old son to do so again!) Sometimes I don’t bother to loan a book from the library, I just walk about the shelves and recall the joy and sense of awe I felt as a young teen, back in the “Baysey Library”.
Libraries can be futuristic buildings or housed in old horse stables. What they have in common, is books! Despite gloomy predictions about their future in the age of the e-Book, I suspect those of us who love reading books, will always love libraries.
And some of those libraries will become firm favourites!
© 2017 Robert Fairhead
NB: Blog post also published on TallAndTrue.com.
Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of a middle-aged dad and dog owner. Among other things, Robert is an editor and writer at Tall And True, an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers. In 2020, he published his first collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story (available from Amazon).