If you could spend the rest of your free time in one place, where would it be?
For me, it would be a library. Libraries are the places where I feel honestly at peace. The larger the library, the better. There is no better place to be than where the whispers of human knowledge are stored.
I sit in the Reading Room at Liverpool Central Library, and I feel at home. I feel giddy like a small child staring at his massive pile of presents on Christmas Day, looking at the curved walls covered in shelves of bound knowledge from top to bottom.
Sitting at the wooden desks in the centre of the room with my notebook embossed with the Hogwarts’ coat of arms and my Hufflepuff pen before me, I listen to the snapping of closing books, the creaks of spines, the rustle of pages and the absorbing of information as folks search and study.
There are people of all ages, colours and backgrounds in this room, all searching for something whether it be the facts of a particular culture, the history of a particular person or merely wishing to find a new story to inspire them. The library brings all these different people to the same place.
For at the heart of every library is the wanting of knowledge. We read to learn, to be inspired and to escape. No matter if it is through a bestselling crime novel, a classic tome from the Victorian period or non-fiction explaining how to engage in Deep Work (Thank you, Cal Newport), a library has the potential to change your life.
You can do as I do and walk along the shelves, stroking your fingers along the spines of the books until you find the one you are searching for or maybe just one that catches your attention. I have always taken out and read more books than I intended to from the libraries I have visited. All you have to do is read.
You can read quickly or slowly, stay from the opening of the doors until lights out, just reading. Malcolm X once said: “My Alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”
The Long Room
My favourite library to have visited in the Long Room at Trinity College Dublin. It sits above the Book of Kell exhibition. It is an amazing place with a rich history. My heart pumped excitement throughout my entire body when I climbed the stairs and entered the room. I stared around at the shelves holding 200,000 books. There was a time when this library received a copy of every newly published work. It is a place where the greatest minds and their works have gathered for students of the University to read and study.
You can look into the marble eyes of Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero and Shakespeare and many other great thinkers with busts on pedestals and simply be inspired by how you, yourself, could follow in their amazing footsteps by soaking up the knowledge in those books.
A library’s place in the world
Libraries are the beacons of culture. They hold the most significant works of the past, but they should always be at the forefront of developing new works whether it be locally, nationally or globally. If they don’t, they are no better than mausoleums.
The internet is amazing. You can quickly search and find something in a matter of moments. However, it comes with consequences that you do not experience in a library. In the halls of the internet, you will at one point or another received the vilest abuse from the anonymous or read an article filled with lies that will alter your thinking or enforced your thinking.
I love a library because you can absorb knowledge in quiet surroundings and know that those surrounding you are doing the same. It is a rare thing to experience, and you can experience it every day by merely visiting a library and exploring the treasures it holds.