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Our first Library of the Month for 2020 is Kendal Library. A beautiful Carnegie Library, over 100 years old, and a central part of the community with much more to offer on top of the shelves and shelves of books.
Tell us about your library and the area it sits in.
Our library is a beautiful stone-fronted building on the edge of the Lake District in Kendal. It’s over 100 years old and is a Carnegie Library, purpose-built with money donated by Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Many visitors comment on the building and its distinctive features – the town coat of arms in the foyer and the ‘Let there be Light’ inscription above the front door.
Describe your library in three words.
Kendal Library is welcoming, busy and much-loved.
Apart from plenty of reading material, what other services does your library offer?
We’re about a lot more than books now and are very much a social space too. We have free to use public PCs, lego, chess, craft and coding clubs and for the last few years have been part of the ‘Get it Loud in Libraries’ initiative, providing a public performance for up and coming music artists. It’s a great atmosphere when there’s a gig on and the lights are dimmed!
What is your favourite book from your childhood, and why did you love it? If you were to become a character from a book for the day, who would it be and why?
Being read to is lovely and we run children’s storytimes sessions – at primary school we were read ‘The Giant Under the Snow’ by John Gordon and I longed to be Jonquil, not just for her beautiful name, but because she was able to fly and soared above a wintry landscape with best friend Bill.
What’s been the biggest surprise about working in a library?
We’re very much part of our community and indeed the library is its own community. Many people visit every day we’re open and have got to know each other and form friendships through doing so. It was surprising to me when I started here 11 years ago just how important a social space the library is.
What are your top three must-reads?
Of course, working here means we get to see new books as soon as they come in and one from the last few years that had me reading till the small hours is ‘Apple Tree Yard’ by Louise Doughty. I’ve recommended it to so many people and all have loved it. Wilkie Collins’ ‘Woman in White’ had me so engrossed I missed my bus stop but if I had to choose one all-time favourite it would have to be ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ by Anthony Powell. Not for the faint-hearted as there are 12 volumes, but the detail and sweep of the narrative are immense and you can lose yourself in the ever-revolving cast of characters.
What is the strangest book-related question your team has been asked?
Of course, a library is nothing without the people who come through the door and we’ve had our fair share of odd queries… we like to think we can solve most book-related queries but were stumped when asked for a book someone had once read and the only thing they could remember was that it had a piece of string and a POW in it…
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