Me and my library;Interview;Joanna Trollope

3rd September 1999 at 01:00
When I was working on Britannia's Daughter I used the Fawcett Library in London an enormous amount. It was an extraordinary place because it had both some of the earliest books on the history of women published in this country, and also modern feminist tracts. It was a shining example of a single-theme library and was full of serious students. I think the male librarian was the only man in the place.

I remember a tremendous air of earnestness. It was a truly impressive library for its purpose, but I think if you worked there too long you might get rather desperate for a joke.

The libraries I feel most comfortable in are the small provincial rural libraries used by OAPs and students and people with their shopping baskets who have tied the dog up outside while they choose books.

The user-friendliness of bookshops has translated both to libraries and librarians, who are now warm and charming. The librarians of my youth were stiff, forbidding ladies, always hissing at you not to touch things or speak.

I love the fact that libraries now have activities for children in the school holidays and drama and discussion groups - they have become therapy centres in a way. I like the human side of a provincial library. One of its charms, I think, is that it is conducive to widening your reading tastes.

For the National Year of Reading I have been patron of the libraries in Gloucestershire. When I'm living there, I have Cirencester Library seven miles in one direction and Moreton in Marsh Library seven miles in the other and they both

have the same multifarious

feel to them.

There is a cosiness, but they also have the Internet. It's a very good cocktail and, although I admire the Fawcett-style libraries and, having been to Oxford, have worked in some extraordinary libraries including the Bodleian, I am happier somewhere smaller and lower key. I think my spiritual home is a little library in a smallish place.

As a writer, I am enormously grateful for public lending rights, which, during the lean years, made an enormous difference. But even in the early days, I never looked for my own books in libraries, probably because I was terrified I would see them all still sitting there. It is very gratifying now to know there are waiting lists for them.

Joanna Trollope's latest novel, 'Other People's Children', was

published in paperback earlier

this year. She was talking to Pamela Coleman

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