One of the most wonderful places I know is the public library! To enter the doors of a library is to feel an instant sense of wellbeing and calm, along with pleasurable anticipation of what treasures you might find there. When I was a child, my Dad used to take us all to the St Heliers Bay Library in Auckland every Friday night. There I’d have the joy of selecting a pile of books for the coming week and, if we were lucky, Dad would buy a large block of Caramello chocolate so that when we got home books and chocolate would make an irresistible combination. As a teenager, I became a school librarian simply because the position allowed me a greater weekly allowance of books. Whenever I have moved to a new city, one of the first things I’ve done is to join the local library. In Sydney, I have joined several, so I have access to all those in the City of Sydney group (9 libraries), the Woollahra group (3 libraries) and also to Waverley Library. I visit them all often.
So it won’t surprise you to hear that I also love books about libraries. I have recently very much enjoyed The Library Book by Susan Orlean, about a terrible fire which was deliberately lit in the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, destroying more than 400,000 books. The book tells the story of the fire, what it consumed, and the impact it had on librarians and community.
But interspersed with the tale of the fire are chapters on the history of the building, from its early days in a rough town through to its current role in a huge metropolis. There were portraits of eccentric librarians, chapters about book thefts and other arson attempts, weird and wonderful requests faced by staff, library design, and the challenges faced by World Wars and female librarians. The book was absorbing, unusual and fun, and it made me want to immediately rush out to a library, to feel once again the joy that a room full of free books always produces.
Other books about libraries include Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Alan Bennett’s utterly gorgeous The Uncommon Reader in which the Queen accidentally visits a mobile library (if you have not yet read it, do so immediately!!), and Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Vicki Myron. Novels which include many library scenes are the truly fabulous Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (Harriet Vane spends many blissful hours in the Duke Humphry’s Library in Oxford) and A.S. Byatt’s superb Possession which begins memorably with the discovery of an old letter tucked into a book in the London Library. Ian Sansom, who works as a professor of library studies, has written four books in a Mobile Library mystery series which will comprise a projected forty-four novels. I have yet to try them but if you are interested they include – The Case of the Missing Books, Mr Dixon Disappears, The Book Stops Here and The Bad Book Affair.
Are you an active library member? What do you love about your local library? Can you recommend another book about a library? Tell me in a comment below.
The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
Mr Dixon Disappears by Ian Sansom
The Book Stops Here by Ian Sansom
The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom
I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.