12+ A friend shared a Facebook post by inviting the reader to "Step Inside the World's Coolest Library". The futuristically designed library in Tianjin, China (aptly nicknamed, The Eye) is lined from floor to cathedral high ceilings with bookshelves, which follow the building's curved contours.
And, most importantly, for the avid reader, the bookshelves 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 have left an indelible impression on me.
Bayswater Public Library, Perth, WA
I grew up in Perth and, as a child, lived and went to primary school in Bayswater. The Bayswater ("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.
Brighton Library, Sussex, England
I lived in Brighton, England, for six years from 1987 to 1993 and loved visiting the Brighton Library, which back then 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, not of horses (thankfully!) but history and knowledge. And I frequently borrowed books from the library and expanded my reading in my late twenties and early thirties.
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 Library, Sydney, NSW
I now live in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, and Waverley Library is my local library. I have loaned countless books, CDs and DVDs from it over the years. But I will always associate the library 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.
Books like Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider teen spy series, which my son devoured over one school holidays when he was thirteen. Oh, that I could inspire him to do so again nowadays!
Sometimes I don't bother to loan a book from the library. I walk about the shelves and recall the joy and sense of awe I felt as a young teen, back in the "Baysey Library".
Tall And True is an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers.
The Future of Libraries
Libraries can be futuristic buildings or housed in old horse stables. What they all have in common are books!
Despite gloomy predictions about their future in the age of the e-book, I suspect those of us who love reading "traditional" books (and loaning e- and audiobooks!) will always love libraries.
And some of those libraries will become our favourites!
© 2017 Robert Fairhead
N.B. This post is also published on my blog at RobertFairhead.com.
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, walking his dog, and watching Aussie Rules Football with his son.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.