Shelf sacrifice

The thing about anywhere you consider ‘home’ is that you never really start considering it that way until it’s not there any more.

Walking into Central Library on its last day I found it devoid of books, mostly partitioned off, infused with dour atmosphere and dotted with cheap furniture. It looked for all the world like a second world abortion clinic. And it felt like being punched in the back of the head.

But even then walking out of the doors—knowing it’ll be the last time—bought a lump to my throat the size of a child’s fist.

Sometimes home is stolen gradually. Changes adding up slowly between each visit until you look around one quiet afternoon and wonder where the fuck you are and who these fucking people are anyway.

Other times you’re standing outside the charred remains of the club that defined your young adult life noticing that even days later the heap that was Edward’s Number 8 is still kicking off heat and smells like Bonfire Night.

Being dyslexic meant that learning to read was difficult. But my mum not only more than prepared me for school, she sparked a love of reading that meant I quickly burnt through the children’s section of the local library. Then, because I was a regular in there, the adult section. So I was allowed on the bus to go to the other local libraries. And when I had inhaled the contents of those, my parents relented to my nagging and allowed me to go to the Central Library.

Of course I fell in love with it, big cavernous rooms filled with books on every subject. I would ride the escalators with armfuls of books piled higher than my head, find a corner with one of those municipal low comfy chairs of that pale green colours only people in the seventies thought looked good and read until I was asked to leave.

Later, when I started at Shenley Court school in the sixth form I found that because I hadn’t attended school there the ranks had closed. I dropped out: but rather than telling my parents I left for school every morning, caught the number 29 bus and stayed on as it flew by the school. I stayed on it for the hour and a half to town. And every day for a year I went to the Library, sat in the window of the second floor fiction section. I was in there so much the security guard stopped bothering asking my not to put my feet up.

Even to this day when I have nothing to do, something I’m finding rarer and rarer these days I admit, I would find myself drifting towards the library and browsing the same books I’ve seen countless time before.

I’ve travelled a lot, and moved around a bit more. And the more it happens the more home shifts from a specific place and it becomes little things: my favourite hoodie, my weirdly organised backpack, chai tea, or the hum of a bus engine. It gets to the point where it really isn’t something you think you need, miss or want. But looking back, I noticed where-ever I’ve gone, one place I would always seek out is the city’s libraries. Unconsciously looking for a base, a home. Drawing solace in the stacks of books, furtive glances, and gentle quiet.

I’m not one to resist change and understand the building was expensive to run, but allow me a few moments.

Central Library was more than a building to me it was home.

Author: Danny Smith

Danny Smith is a writer and malcontent, Contributing Editor of Paradise Circus.

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