Love your local library

I found myself in Perth with delightful assistant no.2 yesterday. We were going to B&Q (a large do-it-yourself hardware emporium, for anyone unfamiliar with the company), and Perth’s central lending library, the A K Bell.

The A K Bell was closed for a few weeks recently, while it underwent a spot of refurbishment. I hadn’t seen the new look and was keen to take a peek, as well as take tea in the cafe and try to flog the library bookshop a copy or two ofย my book.

This is the library building from the outside. It was originally constructed as a hospital in the 1830s, and designed by a local architect called William Mackenzie:

It being quite late in the afternoon, the cafe was unusually empty, but as welcoming and delightful as I always find it:

I don’t usually admit to locations of tearooms on this blog, but it was difficult to do a post about the library without mentioning the tearoom, which is one of those featured in my book (if you haven’t bought the book to find out where my favourite tearooms are, you’ve at least got this one for free).

The tearoom has been decorated with quotes around the walls. They’re all worth a read, but I picked this Groucho Marx one as an example because it made me chuckle:

On this occasion, my delightful assistant chose a black coffee, I had tea, and we shared a large piece of Mars Bar krispie cake. He likes to have things cut up into small pieces, so I divided it into six bitesize chunks:

Suitably refreshed, we wandered into the newly done up library. This is the foyer, that has been spruced up since I last saw it, and now has the word ‘Welcome’ in silver above the entrance between the pillars:

There is ย a painting of A K Bell on one side of the entrance hall:

And a colourful display of Scottish words on the other side:

Inside, the library has been much improved with new flooring and a fresh layout.

It’s a bit of a well kept secret (my delightful assistant wasn’t aware of it, despite having been to the library many times), but upstairs in the library there is a small bookshop section selling books of local interest. It was here that I was hoping to sell my own little book, and so we approached a chap at a desk near the bookshop and asked if he’d be interested.

It turned out that the person responsible for the bookshop area had left months ago and hadn’t been replaced, in addition to which the library had no money for buying new books (perhaps due to all the lovely new renovations?). So, rather than buying a few to sell, I asked if he might like to buy one copy for the library to have in their stock, but again there was a money issue and he hinted that they always hoped people would donate such books to them. He did say, however, that he would email a couple of library staff and see what he could do to try and get them to buy a copy.

Wrong-footed by this unexpected reaction, my assistant and I thanked him and wandered off. As we were ambling back towards the stairs, my quick-thinking assistant suggested that I donate a book and then at least the library would have one. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this myself, but regretfully I am a bit slow on the uptake sometimes.

Britain’s public lending libraries are something I am very grateful for, having made use of many of them over the years, and when I thought about it I realised that it would be a pleasure to give them a little book to add to their stock. ย So, back we went to the chap again and donated a copy of the book.

I’m not entirely sure what happens to donations, but perhaps now if anyone wants to read about tearooms in the area without buying a book about it, they can borrow that copy from the A K Bell.

Back outside in the sunshine, we noticed a new display on the grass in front of the building. It was composed of artworks made from recycled glass, and a planted butterfly:

I feel strangely chuffed to have a copy of my book lodged in the A K Bell library, nestling amongst so many great works by authors I admire and have been inspired by.

Thank you A K Bell library, and all the other such fine institutions around the country that have supplied me with books to read for free. I salute you!

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28 thoughts on “Love your local library

  1. I feel happy to to think of your little book rubbing shoulders with the Greats. When you put something out there, you never know whose hands it will land up and where that will lead. The universe is made of delightful coincidences and you have just opened a path for possibilities. Delighful Assistant No. 2 is a very wise person and I greatly admire his choice of treats as well, much akin to my own, if I may say so.

    • Thank you Shona, I quite agree with you, you just never know where something will lead and that’s an exciting part of life! My delightful assistants are full of wise words, I’m jolly lucky to have them.

  2. I hope that they’re inspired by reading your book and immediately order dozens of copies for their local interest section! If anything, perhaps the Tearooms of Scotland could sell them on your behalf, you’ve already patronised 99.9% of them by now ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks Alice, I like your thinking! I’ve already approached some of the tearooms and have had a very good response, which is wonderful because it’s thanks to them that the book exists at all. I don’t know what percentage of tearooms I’ve still to visit but I’m sure there are still hundreds I’ve never been to!

  3. How nice that you donated your book to the library. I love our local library. So nice to wander around and find things I wouldn’t have found searching Amazon or even the bookstore.

    • Thank you, they’re great places, aren’t they? I don’t know what it is about the atmosphere of them, but perhaps it’s all those books, all that writing and all those ideas flowing into the world – it’s very uplifting!

  4. What a marvellous plug for the AK Bell. I hope they’re grateful for it, and for your book donation.

    I wondered who AK Bell was, but then I spotted ‘Distiller’ to the left of his portrait so I guess he is the man responsible for Bells whisky? It’s a grand thing that he did to donate money for a library. They were once such important public institutions in the UK but they seem less so these days, and that’s a very unhealthy state of affairs. I hope more philanthropists see fit to fund a library or two!

    • It was in fact his father who set up the distilling company Bells, but he did follow in his father’s footsteps in the whisky industry.

      He seems to have been a very interesting and far-sighted chap. I think the library was just named after him rather than him funding it, but he did fund many other things and gave away a lot of his money to good causes, so it’s very fitting that the library’s named after him. I agree with you Finn, I hope other phlianthropists will leave money to libraries in this day and age because some of them are struggling to stay open, and they provide such a wonderful service.

  5. I love the library and visit every week! I do most of my research on the Net, but when I’m making art, need something new to read (always), feel like holding a bit of the world Out There in my hands, I go to the library. As one comment already mentioned, you never know who will end up browsing your book, so let it wander about in the library. The pics are terrific. Love the post.

    • Thank you Katie, I agree, they’re such great places to be in and feel inspired by. I don’t know who first came up with the notion a of a public lending library but it was a superb idea!

    • Thank you Meg, we managed to share because it was pretty big and getting close to evening meal time, but I must admit sometimes I do feel the need of a whole one myself.

  6. What a beautiful library! I’ve never been there although I read about their fab cafe in your guidebook. I think you (and assistant) were quite right to donate a copy. As others have said, you never know who will read it and what will come of it. I, too, love libraries and so much appreciate them.

    • Thank you Christine, you have a wonderful library in Aberdeen’s Rosemount. I always assumed it was the central lending library, but now I wonder…is it? In any case it was my local library when I lived in Rosemount and I really appreciated having it there. In addition to all the books, they sold some lovely old sepia photographs of bits of Aberdeen and I bought quite a few to send to people.

  7. how lovely to read your review of Perth’s library. Perth is a personal favorite of mine and I have been in the library there, although it was many years ago. it was great to see the recent pictures of it and I never did make it to the tearoom, so that will have to be for my next visit. As someone who frequents our local library often, I am grateful for authors like yourself who donate their books. I think that was generous of you and I hope you get a bit of business from it too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thank you ajb, Perth is a nice city isn’t it? I think you would enjoy a little visit to the Library tearoom next time you’re in the vicinity. I felt honoured to be able to donate a book.

  8. To tearoomdelights, christine, and teabudy ( ๐Ÿ˜€ among others) What a lively and lovely ‘Blog & Commentaries’ this site is!

    Years ago, I was at Reference desk of Rosemount Lib,in Aberdeen regarding 1700’s and 1800’s Maritime Rsearch– and certain Builders of the Tall Ships. The Reference librarian so kind to my Scots/Yankee self and inquiries.

    Am re-opening my research with much stronger hope of completion and found here…..confirmation of several concepts…if any of you know of others interested in maritime research and or biographies of Aberdeens shipping families ~ would appeciate their contacting me.

    In any event please excuse lengthiness here ๐Ÿ˜€ but couldn’t help myself

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