A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life – The Leeds Library

Actually, the Leeds Library is my luxury!

I signed up to join The Leeds Library on 5 March 2008 and have never looked back. In fact I don’t know why I didn’t do so decades ago but there were several reasons for this. Membership was a bit more restricted in the old days, one had to buy shares. I thought I would never manage to get into Leeds every week or so. And I thought it would be outrageously expensive. But it’s turned out that none of those reasons apply now.

Each time I push the door open I enter a paradise – the smell, the smiles of the counter staff, the walls and walls of books, the lovely solid polished library furniture all combine to give me the most uplifting feeling imaginable. And I’m there almost every week.

I think there are rules but I have not yet fallen foul of them. I currently have 15 books on loan one of which is a 12 week loan and has been renewed 13 times! If another borrower requests it I’ll take it back straight away but I need time to read these huge tomes – there’s a time and a place for Orlando Figes’ ‘Natasha’s Dance’ and Edna Healey’s ‘Coutts & Co.: a portrait of  a private bank’. I’m still working my way through the 8 times renewed ‘Queen Mary’. I have another 2 books brought up from the depths of the basement stack especially for me: Joanna Cannan’s ‘Little I understood’ and Sarah Orne Jewett’s ‘The Queen’s Twin and other stories’. Waiting patiently to be read are some brand new books (Jane Brown’s ‘The omnipotent magician’ and ‘The Maids of La Rochelle’ by Elinor Brent-Dyer) which I’m the first person to borrow. I have several other books, taken straight from the shelves, (‘Pushkin’s Button’ by Serena Vitale, ‘A literary pilgrim’ by Edward Thomas) or the waiting list has finally got down to me (‘We are Besieged’ by Barbara Fitzgerald, ‘Hidden Treasures of England’ by Michael McNay).

In addition to books we can borrow magazines and DVDs. I’m on the list for The New Yorker which has at least one long article well worth reading alongside a couple of shorter ones and I absolutely love the cartoons. On the back page there is a competition – a new cartoon with no caption, a cartoon with 3 selected captions for readers to vote for and finally the winning caption with its cartoon. Never a dud! The other weekly magazine I’m on the list for is Country Life. This is because they often feature old houses, buildings, gardens and sometimes Landmark Trust properties. It’s almost as entertaining looking at the property pages in Country Life as it is studying the cartoons in the New Yorker!

Who needs Lovefilm? I don’t. On Friday I will be returning ‘Mildred Pierce’. Over the years I’ve caught up with missed TV programmes like ‘Who do you think you are?’, ‘Any human heart’ and the complete ‘Pallisers’ and I see from my Reservations List that ‘Daniel Deronda’ is waiting for me to enjoy on a winter evening next week. Now how civilised is that?


20 comments on “A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life – The Leeds Library

  1. I need LoveFilm because I don’t have a gorgeous subscription library like this one!! It is stunning Barbara, how fortunate you are to be able to access it . Tavistock has a tiny one which sold off its entire stock of original 19th and early 20th century novels, keeping only those of non-fiction local interest. I found a record of the stock list in the town library a while back with names of members, it made me want to weep at what has been lost. Georgiana who had Endsleigh built was a member. The room remains but it is only open one lunchtime per week… Heck I am now green with envy!!!

    • Such a shame that so many of these libraries have disappeared. When I was home, a couple of years ago, we dined at The Library in the old Norfolk and Norwich Subscription Library which I had always understood to have been the oldest in the country at one time. Hats off to Leeds Library who are working towards making the library play a bigger a role in the community as well as serving its current members so well.

  2. Marie-Noëlle says:

    I’ve “tiptoed” around this gorgeous library and I’ve anjoyed my visit !!!

    • Ha! MN. No tippy toeing around this library! You can speak in your normal voice – even laugh and joke with the library staff. But there is just one room where silence is requested. So glad you enjoyed your visit with me.

  3. Nilly says:

    I knew about this, but never have investigated as I thought we lived just a little too far away – though we do have family in Leeds. Your blog post captures the wonderful atmosphere & I think we must look into joining.

  4. sherry says:

    Looks like heaven to me. Hope to visit. sometime. sigh.

  5. Oh please do, Sherry, join me in heaven for a day.

  6. Lyn says:

    Looks and sounds gorgeous, Barbara, you are lucky to have access to such a beautiful library. Endless renewals are also a wonderful thing!

  7. I appreciate my luck, Lyn. Endless renewals and (don’t tell anyone 😉 ) no fines, either!

  8. Jim Bryant says:

    What an evocative introduction to the Leeds Library: hope it encourages others to venture inside! Like you I’m a relatively new member and have thoroughly enjoyed my visits there. Each trip up (from Sheffield) is full of eager anticipation and each time I’ve returned with all sorts of things that serendipity has thrown my way as I’ve browsed the shelves. I don’t think you mentioned the ‘coffee corner’ but that’s a great feature for me: perhaps one day you’ll find me there browsing through ‘Private Eye’ as I eat a sandwich!
    You’ve got a great Blog here – I don’t normally read them – and I love the stuff on your travels including the Landmarks (we’ve been to a good few and they’re another hidden treasure).

  9. Jim! Thank you for this appreciative comments! I only never mentioned the ‘coffee corner’ because I don’t use it! I live near enough not to need sustenance when I’m there. I will look for you whenever I am there and introduce myself if I find you. Another Landmarker too? Very pleased to meet you. I’m never likely to visit on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesday mornings. The most likely times are late afternoons on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Again, thank you!

  10. […] don’t normally buy new books these days. I tend to use the library and sometimes buy secondhand out of print. The exception is if I’m in an independent […]

  11. […] last week at the Leeds Library I noticed an advertisement for a talk at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds […]

  12. […] the building and departments as we descended. The Hornby and Oak Rooms reminded me of my own dear Leeds Library. Going into the major reference space – The Picton Library – was just like entering the […]

  13. […] of Theatre of the Dales brought his excellent one man show ‘Acting Ebenezer’ to The Leeds Library and performed his abridged version of ‘A Christmas Carol‘ very much in the style of the […]

  14. […] started ten years ago I took out a subscription but this year now that I can borrow issues from The Leeds Library I have cancelled my subscription. The result is that I actually read the magazine instead of […]

  15. […] joining The Leeds Library I have been a regular reader of The New Yorker so it was with great delight that I unwrapped a box […]

  16. […] Avoca store found my way to The National Library of Ireland. A friend, and fellow member of the Leeds Library, recommended to me after a recent visit “YEATS: the life and works of William Butler […]

  17. […] Life and in this recently published compilation of articles (both of which I borrowed from the Library) and hoped we would be […]

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