Tuesday, October 10, 2006

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...


Blogger Susannah said...

i probably won't make it up to Manchester, but i think a trip to the BL is in order soon.... i love the crisp page-turning silence too

Tue Oct 10, 10:07:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice ... nice description. Thanks. You inspire me Clare!

Tue Oct 10, 10:23:00 am  
Anonymous Sharon J said...

Sounds glorious but it wouldn't work for me. I often have my special needs son with me when I visit the library and keeping him quiet is about as easy as dipping bread into a hard boiled egg. I must give John Rylands a try one day, though.

Tue Oct 10, 02:10:00 pm  
Anonymous clare said...

Susannah - yes, recommend BL - great place - they let you have really ancient books to look at too.

Thanks CB.

Sharon J: That must be hard - and the school day is fairly short and it's difficult to fit things in, I dimly remember...

Tue Oct 10, 03:30:00 pm  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

How funny it is... We sit in some poky corner, reading a book or pushing the words around. Then, for companionship, we go to a very quiet place where we can do the same thing in companionship with others.

Tue Oct 10, 04:25:00 pm  
Anonymous clare said...

Yes Marly, I think it strange too - we don't even speak, it's just kind of comforting to have someone working quietly beside you.

Fri Oct 13, 08:26:00 am  

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