Like many writers, I grew up in libraries: primary school, high school, college and universities, hospitals and local council. One of my earliest reading memories is The Tiger Who Came to Tea – something I’d never cope with as an adult! Most Saturdays were spent browsing the children’s section for new reads and experiencing book-stamping envy (I eventually bought my own).
Surely I was destined to become a detective as I progressed from the Secret Seven and Famous Five to Nancy Drew and Ellery Queen? But no, it wasn’t to be. My high school years challenged comfort reading with classics such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Steppenwolf and the resonating Catcher In The Rye.
Off to Queen Margaret College where the campus library offered a light, bright space and submarine cubbyholes. Despite its resemblance to an eighties aquarium it offered quiet corners for concentration, frantic whispers and last minute cramming.
The old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh had a fantastically stocked library, which must have received hefty donations from grateful patients. While RIE volunteers wheeled trollies of books around the wards I spent months engrossed in mortuaries with Dr Kay Scarpetta and Dr Maura Isles – ironic really as I am now working with non-fictional pathologists.
Perusing library shelves can uncover a treasure trove of new-to-me authors such as Karin Fossum or Yrsa Sigurdardottir with multiple series waiting to be read.
A couple of weeks ago I went back to visit the transformed Dunfermline Carnegie Library, which has been extended to include exhibition galleries, a museum, café, shop and reading room. It also has a new children’s library for the next generation of readers.
How great to see the library vibrant with so much on offer – and what better than to borrow a book, sit in the café and enjoy a tea-cosied pot of tea?