'The library had changed a good deal, she noticed. The old wooden desks had gone, and the newspapers in the racks. There were low vinyl seats that an elderly person could get in and out of comfortably. There were modern pictures on the wall, sunbursts of yellow and orange, and a part marked ' Children's Play Area'. Children did not play in it, but ran about, loud and healthy. Fluttering notices on a cork board advertised yoga classes and Community Welfare Programmes, play groups and Councillor's Surgeries. People talked quite unashamedly in ordinary voices; there had been only an odd subdued whisper in the past, in the old days when Clifford used to step down to get a detective story, and she used to ask for a nice mystery from Miss Williams on the desk.'
If you have read Every Day is Mother's Day by Hilary Mantel, you may recognise this as Evelyn's trip to the library to borrow a book on 'how to deliver babies in an emergency', and her thirty-year old tickets being met with 'a strange sideways look' from the 'fat girl in a fluffy pink cardigan' behind the counter.
I never fell out of love with the library, the Tinker and I used to spend every Saturday morning in this one after all..
but I will admit that I had stopped using my local one for quite a while until recently. Had it 'disappeared' in that time I would have been desperately sad, but I am ashamed to admit I am not sure I would have had the enthusiasm or the energy to protest, or march under a banner.
But all that has changed.
I am a born-again library user.
Should Devon Libraries even think of closing Tavistock Library down now I'd have to wedge myself in that letterbox you can return books through when they are closed, and they would have to suffer the consequences. Actually someone may already have tried that because when I went to post a book through the other day the letterbox was out of action 'due to vandalism'.
It's the online catalogue and specifically non-fiction that does it for me.
I'm doing a lot of local history research for Beating the Bounds at the moment...incidentally is it research or research ??
I'm doing some research??
Oh never mind...I'm doing some looking up.
So I think of a book, or read of several in a bibliography and head for the library catalogue. I have reserved some corkers from something called The Stacks, which sounds dusty and cellar-like and probably has the poor librarian donning overalls, gloves and mask and muttering 'oh for goodness sake' until they find it. But my need for Epidemics and Diseases in Devon was great if I was to discover why several local children, buried in the churchyard over yonder, had died in or around 1864.
Can you believe that such a fascinating book had never been borrowed?? I'll bet they were about to throw it away. Anyway my money's on scarlet fever, diphtheria or cholera all of which seemed prevalent locally at the time.
The online archives also give me access, via my ticket number, to the Times digital archive along with forty-eight local and national newspapers from way back when, and a score of other really useful things, and I spend ages poring over it.
So now I have extended my remit. I already belong to Orkney Library and now I have joined Cornwall Libraries too, so the potential for confusion is great, and compounded last week when I realised my Cornish books were overdue and I couldn't get to Launceston to renew them.
No worries, I'd do it online.
Except somehow one of the books wasn't on my online account list. How I had managed to not check it out, when I know I had put it under the machine, and then exited the building without the alarm sounding remains an unsolved Cornish mystery.
No worries, I'd ring the 24 hour renewal line.
Half an hour later and I was no nearer renewing the book and had probably spent ten times the fine on the phone bill.
But look, what was this I saw on my screen..
Ask a Librarian
Local chat is available between 9am-5pm Monday – Friday. Outside of these hours please use the link to the Enquire National Service.
Chat Transcript: Hello, I am trying to renew a library book online but it doesn't show up on my loans. Have also checked my husband's card in case I used his and it doesn't show up there either. Can you help? It is due back today
[Librarian 11:34:13]: Librarian 'Valeri (24/7 Librarian)' has joined the session.
[Librarian 11:34:24]: My name is Valeri, and I'm a reference librarian in Connecticut. I'm reading your question right now to see how I can help you...
[Lynne Hatwell 11:34:59]: Right...thank you. I was expecting someone in Cornwall!
[Librarian 11:35:36]: I'm sorry, but I do not have access to that system.
[Librarian 11:35:53]: I recommend that you telephone the library directly during regular hours.
[Lynne Hatwell 11:36:01]: ah, OK no worries then
[Librarian 11:36:11]: Thank you for using the service. Please contact us if you need further assistance.
I might just go and join Connecticut Library now as well.