Going to the Liverpool Central Library is always an occasion. The building is a splendid structure - to the right of the entrance is a semi-circular facade with columns and inside a large tiered circular room called the Picton Reading Room (Victorian Liverpudlians called it the Picton Gasometer), built in 1875 to emulate the Reading Room at the British Museum. It would make a respectable amphitheatre.
It is part of an impressive series of civic buildings built in the last half of the nineteenth century, largely financed by a local MP William Brown who was subsequently honoured by having the street named after him. There is a very good selection of history books housed in the Picton and apart from the odd man quietly singing an opera to himself at one of the desks it is quiet and a good place to study. The modern entrance to the library is more quiet - hidden to the side of a 'six-column Corinthian portico with attic...severely Graeco-Roman style' and the interior is a more conventional cuboid, with floor after floor of books, almost, it would seem every book in the world, except, sadly, for MY latest tome - at least last time I looked in their catalogue. Maybe they will be able to afford to buy a copy as part of the fifty million pounds refurbishment which is to start soon - in time for 2008 when Liverpool becomes European City of Culture. Unless, of course, they decide to replace books with computers.
On Thursday I explored new territories - to the right through the automatic doors, and up two floors above the circular library to where there was more wooden panelling, and another drum-like space full of books, then through this to the Hornby Room, which has the high ceiling and rectangular floor of a small church.
Libraries in the North West of England have a new initiative starting this week until early in 2006 called HERE AND NOW. They are going to promote novels with a North West interest in the local libraries and Jane Mathieson, the Regional Reader Development organiser had invited local writers to come and network with the region’s librarians.
Anne Caldwell (editor of TIME TO READ - a summary of best practice in Reader Development work with adults in North-West England 2000-2004) gave the introductory session, then there were sessions showing us how we could work with libraries (by author Cath Staincliffe part of MURDER SQUAD), how we could use different methods to promote our writing in libraries by Tom Palmer, a speed-dating session where we given five minutes to tell various librarians what we could offer, and something called a ‘breakout session’ where we discussed ideas on how we could encourage more readers into libraries.
The day was a lot of fun and I found it extremely useful - not only did I meet a lot of interesting and interested librarians but I also had the chance to talk to eleven out of the twenty-one writers who attended - many of whom I intend to blog about in the future.