The John Rylands Library, Manchester
Sometimes, well often, actually, I miss other minds. The business of writing is isolating - just the contemplation of writing is isolating - so I visit libraries and work there. I don't have to go. I could just as easily order the books on interlibrary loan (after searching the catalogues online) and wait for them to come to me. But if there is some other reason to go to London or Manchester I go, make a day of it and wallow a little in the atmosphere of a good library.
In London there are several: the ones attached to museums, the London Library I understand is very good, and there are a few others...but the one I love of course is the British Library. I love the way no one talks, or if they do they talk in whispers. There are no mobile phones, no babies crying, no elderly gentlemen pretending to read the papers but really just meeting in the warmth for a loud chat, no people emerging from the 'computing for the terrified classes' with a clamour of relief and questions...there is just quiet.
The university of Manchester's John Rylands library is the same. When someone answers his mobile phone he is silently mobbed by the people around him - hand signals impatiently pointing out the exit; their pained faces regretting the intrusion. He strides away still talking in some foreign tongue and the quiet is resumed - nothing louder than a page being turned or a keyboard being tapped or, outside, the muffled chiming of bells marking the hour then the quarter and then the half...