Wednesday 31 October 2018

Birkenhead and Highgate

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Libraries have played a big part in my life, and after last week's happy news, about the Dagger in the Library, I've been reflecting on some of the wonderful times I've had in libraries large and small, and in all sorts of places.

A private tour of the Library of Congress, the chance to see the original Winnie-the-Pooh in New York City Library, a look round Coimbra's university library, with its famous colony of bats, kept to deal with book-eating pests. Book launches, and hosting Alibis in the Archives at Gladstone's Library. Designing a murder mystery for customers at a pop-up shop in the British Library. And the list of memories goes on.

Britain's public libraries, above all, have been important to me since I started borrowing Enid Blytons from the children's section of the local library in the Cheshire town where I grew up (and what a joy it was to return there a couple of years ago to give a talk about my own books). I seize any chance I can get to do library events, and since I ceased to be a full-time partner in a law firm, I've been able to grab more of those chances.

Two splendid opportunities actually came my way last week, on the evenings immediately before the award of the Dagger in the Library. First came another trip down memory lane, to Birkenhead Central Library, to give a talk about the making of Gallows Court. When I lived on Wirral, I was a member of Moreton Library, near to my flat, but also of Birkenhead, because it had a vast stock, including quite a lot of books that were otherwise hard to find. It was great to go back there, and also to meet up with a few old friends.

Then came something rather different, a talk at an independent library, the very historic Highgate Literary and Scientific Institute. Like Gladstone's Library and the Lit and Phil in Newcastle, among others, it's a very atmospheric place. They have a long-standing tradition of weekly lectures, and this time I was talking about the Golden Age of detective fiction. Again, it was so enjoyable.

And that's not all. Surrey Libraries are currently running a literary festival, and a week on Friday I'm talking at Woking Library. Very much looking forward to it.   


Bonnie MacBird said...

What a lovely reminiscence, Martin. My formative years were nurtured in libraries as well. The libraries funded by Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie were spread across America, and the UK as well, and it was at a Carnegie Library in my hometown of South San Francisco that I first met Sherlock Holmes. I remember falling in love with books there; my mom brought me to check out the maximum number each week - three to begin, and five when I got a little older. I inhaled Burgess, London, Baum, Conan Doyle,Dickens, Kipling, Scott, Forester, and so many more. Some of my best childhood memories center around that thrilling place. It still stands, by the way, and is still a library, while so many of these buildings have been torn down or repurposed. I'm giving a talk to the Carnegie Library Foundation later this week, and I can't wait to thank them. I enjoyed your piece so much, Martin. Thanks for sharing this. Libraries!!!!!!! Bonnie MacBird,

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Bonnie, it's great to hear from you. The Carnegie libraries were and still are wonderful. Enjoy the talk and give my regards to the CLF!

Fiona said...

My home town opened its library when I was 7 years old - I attended the opening, joined the following day, and went to work there when I left school at 16; later I spent 2 years at Ealing Library School to become a chartered librarian. Reading has always been a passion, including the wonderful Kindle which has saved us from being squeezed out of our home by books....both children are avid readers too. And I very much hope to see you at Woking in a couple of weeks!

Martin Edwards said...

It would be great to see you at Woking, Fiona!