Why has this come about? Time and convenience have much to do with it. Also, as I get older, I can't be bothered finishing books I don't enjoy. I can borrow books I would not normally try - and take them back if I don't like them. Don't talk to me about e-books either - they are fine on holiday, but I much prefer to read a printed book.
In Birmingham, we either had to use small-scale local libraries which were often shut due to staff cuts, burst pipes or whatever, or find our way to the big city library.
A few days ago we made our first visit to the enormous, glitzy new Library of Birmingham, with its eye-catching lacy metal skin.
|The Library of Birmingham, opened September 2013|
|Inside the new Library|
Before leaving the topic of massive Birmingham libraries, I must put in yet another plea (see previous blog) to save the now-empty 1970s 'Ziggurat' - the John Madin Central Library, from demolition. I was looking at it from the roof terrace of the new building, and felt frustrated and saddened.
|The old Birmingham Central Library taken from the roof terrace of the new Library|
I am old enough to remember the old Victorian library, demolished to make way for the Madin building - destruction which, of course, is now regarded as disastrous vandalism. I do firmly believe that future generations will see the demolition of the Madin library as a similar tragedy. Maybe it is yet not too late - Brutalism may be getting more acceptable.
So, here we are in Hastings. We have the choice of a tiny library in Ore - which is little more than a hut, or the main library in town. I was in there this morning. Housed in the Victorian Brassey Institute, it is a bit cramped, slightly shabby and with that characteristic library smell I remember from childhood - musty books, dust and a slight whiff of tramp's overcoats. They have machines to check the books in and out, but today they didn't work, and I ended up having a conversation with the bloke behind the desk and a prospective borrower about different translations of Proust......
For me, I guess, it is a matter of size and scale. Hastings is just big enough to have a good browsing selection, not so big that it is daunting, and small enough to be friendly.