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 of 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 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. 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!