The London Library is on St James’s Square. It’s a private, members library and all users pay a membership fee. I’m not entirely sure the first time I heard of the place, but in January I thought I’d contact them and take a tour to see if I wanted to join.
I was about two minutes into the tour, being shown the reading room, when I realised that I had to join. Since then, I’ve worked there and visited at least once a week, and each week I check if the trains are running to see if I can spend the day there on a Saturday. If you like books (and if you don’t, you must be crazy) it’s just a place of pure joy.
It was established in 1841 when Thomas Carlyle decided that he didn’t like the British Museum Library. It’s been on the current site since 1845, although in that time it’s been extended rather dramatically. When you enter it off St James’s Square, you soon realise the place is like a cross between the Tardis and a labyrinth. It has over 1,000,000 volumes and is expanding all the time.
Ever since I left university, the thing I missed the most was the library. I never really took much advantage of our library for my own pleasure because I had other things to do, but since I’ve regretted it. The London Library is a huge academic library, and best all of, you can read what you want without having to write an essay about it.
As well being a wonderful place to wander around, stumbling across books, it’s a great place to work. There’s a writers room, one exclusively for reading (full of periodicals and reference books, no laptops allowed) and other desks dotted around the place in the shelves (‘stacks’). It’s a great place to get work done, whether you’re a professional writer, or like me, someone who just needs a place to work in central London from time to time.
The whole place oozes character and history. It has the most wonderfully idiosyncratic classification system (‘Science and Misc’ being my favourite – a catch-all for everything that isn’t literature, philosophy, history, art or religion).
It’s my new favourite place in London. If you love books, I highly recommend joining. I’d be happy to introduce you to the place, but you can also just book a tour by getting in touch with them. You won’t regret it.
I’ve been meaning to get back to writing on here more often, and I think the first step is to be a bit more realistic on how often I could put out a 7,000 article like my Bowie album reviews. As such, I’m going to start a bit smaller with articles like this capturing media (and in this case a place) that I’ve enjoyed recently.