To kick off the new year on the blog we continue our mini series on libraries from childhood, this time with Sam Nesbit.
Blindfold me, spin me dizzy, and send me staggering down the Uxbridge Road: I could still find my way to the shelf which held the Dorling Kindersley Encyclopaedia of Sharks in Shepherds Bush Public Library. Such was my fascination with all things Carcharodon carcharias that I must’ve borrowed that book over 50 times (no automatic renewals in the 80s!), and it helped embed a lifelong fear of swimming in water more than knee-high. (My dad letting me watch ‘Jaws’ at a ridiculously young age didn’t help, but I’m not pointing fingers…)
The late-19th-century red-brick façade of SBPL made it feel like a hallowed place of learning, but learning wasn’t what I wanted. I sought pictures of gnashing teeth, churning water and wrecked boats, and the other books in the building held very little interest for me back then.
Later, libraries would be both a place of embarrassment (my mum was my 6th Form Librarian; I did not visit much) and of solace (this very building was much warmer than York House back in my student days), but SBPL was where it all started.
Dewey 597.3, left-hand room, second shelf from the top, to be exact!
P.S. Technically, my earliest Library was the Children’s Neighbourhood Centre, whose whopping grant made the local paper (along with yours truly, below…)