Maeve Higgins’s ideal . . . library
I was in my room the other day, trying desperately to choose between crazy, sexy and cool.
I know which one I want to be, I know which one I try to be and I know which one the doctor diagnosed me as, but still, it was tough. Even after I’d spun around to face the mirror and called out each adjective, I couldn’t decide. Uncomfortably warm and confused, I decided instead to imagine the ideal library.
It would serve you well, friend, to remember what you’re dealing with here. I’m hardly objective when it comes to libraries. I used to wear glasses, for heaven’s sake! As a teenager, I was a promiscuous reader and had no shame around it. In fact, I would boast about all the literary action I was getting. I’d lean against the library door, surrounded by curious schoolgirls and drawl “I’ve had ’em all”, gesturing at the books inside – sprawled on the shelves, totally spent. I’d finish one book, lube up my eyes and go right on to the next one – no problem.
There were countless trips up and down to the ocular health clinic – where the doctors begged me to use the free contact lenses they gave me. I did, but only after a nasty dose of conjunctivitis I got from one crazy night spent with Lorna Doone and the three Karamazov boys.
No doubt some of you are wondering why I didn’t become a librarian. And some of you are wondering how long your dressing gown has been flapping open, humiliating you. I have answers. Ninety minutes and nobody noticed, you live alone, remember?
And I didn’t become a librarian because when I married my first husband Michael, my gift to him was to quit reading. Instead I would dance and dance as he clapped his tiny hands together. It was for the best, I could not trust myself as gatekeeper to so many unknown portals – it would make me far too giddy, and there’s nothing worse than a giddy librarian.
Whatever is in their heart, librarians must maintain a steely exterior, lest their shushing be ignored. Us library users are free to do as we please – wander in barefoot, chew on the newspaper, snatch at the WiFi, and stare hungrily at fellow readers – as long as we do so quietly.
The ideal library holds a cross-section of the best people around, a sweet slice of Battenberg society to be
enjoyed with up to eight books at a time.
An old man in a torn coat dozing behind a newspaper, next to a teenager who’s studying and tapping a biro against his train tracks, surrounded by a bunch of multicoloured, cross-legged children listening to a story read by an earnest, middle-aged woman – that’s the dream.
I’ll walk in, nod at my brilliant, loser tribe and go about my business, choosing which rabbit hole to disappear safely into until closing time, then I’ll head home, taking a piece with me.