Friday, September 29, 2006

Borrowing Books: My local library

This is a photo of one of the rooms in the library where I borrow most of the books I read. It's called Bromley House Library and it stands smack bang in Nottingham's busy city centre. You'd never guess it was there from the outside. The ground floor entrance way is bracketed by two shops that pay rent to the library for the premises. The library itself is situated on the floors above, but has a ground floor back entrance to a wonderful 'secret' garden.The library is a grade II listed building, originally built in 1752, and has been a library since 1822.
It's not public, but subscription but at £50.00 a year - less than £1.00 a week, it hardly breaks the bank and it's well worth the fee to be a member of such a wonderful place. It houses a collection of over 35,000 books, ranging from rare manuscripts and tomes (a herbal of 1597 for e.g.) to the latest bestsellers. Daily papers and a selection of magazines (such as History Today and National Geographic) are available to the members. A grandfather clock ticks quietly in a corner. There are comfortable chairs dotted about in strategic corners and thoughtfully placed reading lamps. Even a pair of binoculars for bird-watching in the garden. Proper tea and coffee out of proper china cups is always available. The staff have time to talk. The books to be borrowed are recorded hand-written in ledgers. Computers do exist, but they are discreetly tucked away behind a screen and are only used in an administrative capacity. No one comes to Bromley house to faff about on a PC. They come for what a library should truly be about - choosing and borrowing books, or studying them in a tranquil, unhurried 'respectful' atmosphere that reaches out and welcomes you from the moment you walk through the doors.

As to my borrowing habits. The library is where I suss out new authors whom I might buy if I like them enough. I tend to borrow thrillers because I know that they're unlikely to be keepers. Novels by the likes of Lee Child are great reads, but fodder for one consumption only, so the library is great for feeding that particular habit. I choose books for my husband there. Working full time he can't get to the library himself, so I bring him a selection. Some are hits, some are misses. He's just dumped the latest Flashman, declaring it a 'same old same old,' but is currently reading Memoirs of A Geisha and is deeply engrossed.
When reading, I mentally score books. Any author achieving between 9 and 10 out of 10 are put on my autobuy list. Thrillers and authors scoring between 6 and 8 out of 10 will go onto my library list i.e. I like them but not enough to be keepers. Less than a 6 and I put it down to experience! On a good week these days I probably read around 2 novels. A bad week and it's 1 or less than 1 depending on size. The last library book I read was Daisy Faye and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg - 8 out of 10.
So, what's your local library like and how much do you use it/what are your borrowing habits?


Marg said...

What a lovely room. So much more character than my built in the 70's public library!! Having said that, my library is still one of my favourite places!

Carla said...

That library looks wonderful. A sort of secular temple. By the way, did you hear JK Rowling's interview with Stephen Fry last Christmas, where she said that she had always thought of the Wood Between the Worlds in the Narnia stories as a metaphor for a library? I hadn't thought of that before but I recognised it instantly when she said it.

I use my local public library. As my local is a small village branch with limited stock, I also make a lot of use of the online catalogue to request books from other branches. I probably borrow two or three books a week on average. I love it. Even the village branch has a wider range of stock than the town's chain bookstore, and the range of titles available across the catalogue and in the County Reserve never ceases to amaze me.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Ohh, that's a beautiful place.

Out town library has got so bad I don't pay the annual fee any longer. Our university library, while very well assorted, is a very modern and functional building, a place to work, not to hang out. I try to loan or copy (evil me) books and not work there (not to mention you can't leave your laptop out of your eyes for a second).

Kemberlee said...

Let me just say three words...oh, my goodness! OK it will take more than three. What an awesome library! One I could only aspire to having and fail so miserably at actually getting it. You're a very lucky woman, but we already knew that ;-) As for my's one room with several rows of steel shelves. It looks like a cheap school library. The library shares a building with the local one screen cinema which doubles as a playhouse. I've borrowed from the library once, as they're collection caters to the many schools in town. That book was the one written by your agent! Excellent read. Definitely an 8 of 10. I have a list of authors who are auto-buys so just head for their spots on the shelves, or hit up online booksellers since most of my faves are American writers who aren't stocked on Irish shelves. I'm very blessed now that I can get your books on the shelves here and keep the sale local rather than lining Amazon's pockets.

Anonymous said...

That does look like a wonderful place. It's too bad your area doesn't have a really good free library system. I'm lucky, I guess. Here in Rain City Otherwise Known as Seattle, Washington, USA, there are several very good free, open-access library systems that have *lots* of books of practically every description. Including the latest "best-selling" kinds of authors. I don't read mysteries much; I go for science fiction, if it's good, and my system of what and what not to buy is not that different from Susan's. There are some major exceptions, however; "best-sellerish" books with certain kinds of subject matter I will buy. And I will read any mystery by Carl Hiaasen, who writes some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen(mostly about sleazy characters in Florida, of all places). But then, I am a strong supporter of libraries in *any* community, and plan to donate some money to one of them(a research library in my area; it will give me *some* rights to check out books that I need for my ongoing research activities related to my books)
Anne G

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Carla, 'secular temple' is a wonderful description and yes it is :-) I hadn't heard JK Rowling's remark, but yes, I can identify with it too.
Marg, there are several other rooms like this in the library which also boasts a beautiful open spiral staircase in the main room, leading to a gallery above.
Anne, I do have access to a free public library that is several times the size of Bromley House and I sometimes use it if I want to obtain a reference work BH doesn't have, or I need to go outside the county. However the public libray in Nottingham which is only 100 yards away from Bromley House is one of those souless computer bank places with indelible chewing gum stains on the carpet type of thing and absolutely no ambience or charm.
Also the kind of place to keep your laptop chained to your wrist.
Still, I know how fortunate I am to have the best of both worlds. The public library system is under constant threat in the UK and some of the time books appear to be an inconvenient incidental. When local funding is squeezed, the soft target of the libraries is one of the first to go 'ouch.'

Janie said...

What a wonderful place! Now that's what I call a library.

My local library is one of those 'under used and under threat' places. It tries its best but...

I tend to borrow books that I can't afford to buy, or those written by authors previously unknown to me. The charity shop was getting way too many of my impulse purchases!

For me, shiny covers and blurbs are as dangerous as a mermaid's song for the careless sailor!

Anonymous said...

Love those sexy bookshelves! I'd love them even more if they were in my living room and I had the pleasure of filling them up.

I go to the county public libraries for current popular nonfiction and fiction (older works, sadly, tend to get culled from the collection pretty quickly unless they're high-circulating) and to two university libraries for academic works and some older or overseas fiction. I pay fees to check out books from the university libraries, but the more expensive is only $35 per year--well worth it for all I drag home.

KC said...

I live in a county that has it's own library system, except for the tiny part of the county that I live in, which refuses to join the rest of the county library system. So, I have to pay $50 a year for a family subscription to the county system. It's worth every single penny. I've been paying to use their library for over 10 years now and I'd be lost without it's services. They know me by name since I'm usually there 2 or 3 times a week! It's not nearly as pretty as yours, but it has a wonderful selection of books and a large geneology research section for folks who are into that.

Anonymous said...

As a library lover and a beginning library student, I just found out about subscription libraries. At least the history, I did not realize they still exist. I would love to have a library like that here in my town. I just use a small public library near work. There is not even a place that is quiet that you can read.