Thursday, November 09, 2006

Libraries - An Obsession

As a youngster, I was well-acquainted with the book-borrowing process. First of all from the mobile library that came to our village every Tuesday with its range of large-print Maeve Binchys. We then progressed to the town library - housed in a Portacabin. I fondly remember kneeling on the library floor with my Mum, flicking through the choice of Topsy & Tim books.

And then the town library proper was finished, and we moved on to a three-story building that not only lent books but, gasp, music tapes (my ultra-cool brother was one of the first members). I was a regular book borrower until the age of 14, surreptitiously shaking off my school friends to nip in after lessons and borrow a few Virginia Andrews paperbacks. But at around 14 my relationship with the library died.

Only to be resurrected when I went to university at 19... but it was never the same. It took me two terms to find the library (I didn't take my studies seriously) as I felt that by the end of the Easter term it was embarassing to ask where the library was. And I was never one of those students who could spend all day in the library, making copious notes and photocopying compulsively.

And while I often walk past the few remaining London libraries and think what nice Victorian structures they (mostly) are, I have never been in one. (Actually, that's a lie. I went in the one on Rampayne Street last year but lost faith when they didn't have the one book I wanted). Until now. As an MA student I realise that I am studying for a research degree... which means time must be spent in a library. So it's fortunate I have access to all the university libraries in London, as well as the British Library.

In the past few weeks, I've found myself going to Senate House Library (above) more and more often (I even contemplated nipping over in my lunch break yesterday, before realising that most of my lunch hour would be spent on the bus there and back) and borrowing in a fashion that could be termed compulsive. I have stacks of library books in the flat (not that I have time to read them), and have discovered the joy of renewing them online (because I haven't had time to read them). And I've taken to browsing the library catalogues online when I'm at work, and have started a Word document listing all the books (and their shelf references) for future borrowing.

Is this getting out of hand? Is it just a phase? Will I ever read the sodding books?

No comments: