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My Local Library

Okay, so this is probably my most tragic blog entry ever, but I gotta say, since I’m passing through… I love my local library.  Actually, that’s not strictly accurate.  I love a wide range of local libraries, and currently hold membership cards for at least three boroughs in London, not including the University of London libraries where you will still sometimes find me with my alumni card trying to work out exactly what went on in the French Revolution.  (Russian Revolution – walk in the park.  French Revolution – not a clue.)  So I’ll admit – I’m a member of many different local libraries on the basic principal that you can’t always get what you want, but if you’re willing to walk an extra ten minutes and look at the bottom of the trolley, you might just get what you need.

I guess the Barbican Library was where I first started turning into a fantasy writer.  I had violin lessons in the Barbican every week (in answer to the inevitable violin question – many years, and badly) and so every week was to be found waiting for the lesson in the fantasy section.  By grade 2 I’d done A-G, by grade 5 I’d made it from A-S, and by the time my violin teacher realised I might actually be more suited to the viola, I’d gone all the way down to the bottom of the shelf and met Roger Zelazny, on who much praise has already been heaped.

At university I got into the habit of borrowing as many books as I could carry, dragging them back to halls and renewing them on a daily basis before the other buggers could get their hands on my essay material.  Everything I know about the Algerian War of Independence I learnt in the bath.  (My hall of residence had wonderfully high water pressure combined with a fantastic boiler, and I was learning karate at the time and thus baths seemed the logical learning environment.  On an entirely irrelevant note, I freely admit that for the first six weeks of learning karate, if someone had tried to mug me I probably would have been too physically shattered to even try and put up a fight…)  Simultaneously, when being forced to take a subject that wasn’t history as an external option, I would go to my local library for ‘dummies guides to…’  Thus, my room ended up full of books on the Korean Civil War, Piracy in the 1500s and graphic novels.  (All praise Neil Gaiman!)

In my final year at university, I found myself back in the Corporation of London, where my initial love of the Barbican Library developed, and discovered that box sets of shows like West Wing for £1 a week were really the only way to try and muddle through a dissertation and stay sane.

Now that I’m Domestic Woman, complete with my own (terminally ill) basil plant and council tax bill, my local library has become if anything even more important.  How to books, computer and printer access, leaflets on recycling in the borough  (tragic but useful) films, comics, hardbacks I can’t afford to buy, music galore, ads for free haircuts, cheap swims, local parties and classes in taekwondo, books in Farsi, kids learning how to sing ‘the wheels on the bus’ – popular history!  Say what you will for studying history at LSE, there does come a point in the middle of every essay on the economic policy of Charles V that you dream of a book about sieges and adultery, and imagine the face of your historiography tutor crinkling up distressed at the two words… ‘popular history’…

So yes…

… I love my local library.  And if we are indeed about to have, well, pretty much everything slashed in half during the economic recession, I really hope that my library isn’t one of them.