I have been a librarian for 30 years. I could never decide what I wanted to be but I always loved books. I started working in the school as a library prefect and I never left. I like the variety of the job and not being tied to my desk all the time. You never know what is going to be thrown at you.
I was working at Kings Cross library one day and a girl came in and asked “do you have any language courses?” I asked ‘which language?‘ and she said ‘ Any!‘ so I knew she was someone after my own heart and we have kept in contact ever since learning all these exotic languages, she is now one of my best friends. We’re both language-learning tragics.
I am reading a Venezuelan classic called Doña Bárbara by Rómulo Gallegos which is unfortunately rarely read by English speakers. I am trying to read one book from every country of the world. It’s a crazy project – I have done more than 50 countries so far, I have a blog that I document my reading https://tirelessreader.wordpress.com/. I’m translating my Madagascan title from French since apparently not a single novel from there has ever been translated into English. I am also reading through the classics and all the Agatha Christie mysteries in chronological order – I’m up to 1940 (two decades down, four to go!) I love her clever plots and brilliant characterisation and dialogue.
Libraries are one of the last neutral, open-to-all spaces left in this over-commercialised age. I can’t emphasise too much how important it is for a country that is democratic and wants to progress to have this free service available to everyone, rich or poor. When you travel, even to relatively well-off places like Thailand or Turkey, where public libraries are few and far between, or non-existent, you realise how lucky we are.
Occasionally, I go to other libraries when I travel the world. My favourite building is the new library in Alexandria in Egypt. It’s quite a beautiful building even though it had few books when I visited since it was newly opened. I would like to explore Vatican library – I’m sure there’s so much fascinating stuff hidden away there.
My bookcase at home is a work in progress – at the moment a large part of it consists of the floor! You would think that working in a library, and now having e-books, you wouldn’t need to own physical books, but it’s not so!
If I could only keep three books I would include The Lord of the Rings, Siddhartha, and the Name of the Rose.
I always encourage people to read the first three chapters of Lord of the Rings before they give up because the first chapter is more like The Hobbit (as a children’s book), the second one is the history which some people find a bit drab but the third chapter is when it gets exciting. The Name of the Rose is also like that – it starts off slow which puts a lot of people off.