Monday, February 18, 2008
I've paid farewell to the London Library. My membership lapses at the end of the month and I've returned all of the books I had on loan. The parting is not without sadness. I've spent a fair bit of time there over the last 5 years, working first on my history of the record industry, then on my soon-come history of light entertainment. Their collection is unrivalled, except by the British Library, but the London Library lets you take the books home, sometimes for years on end. The atmosphere is wonderful if you like to be surrounded by dark wood, leather-bound books and snoring gentlemen with hairy ears. It's not just a haven for bookish buffers, though. There's free wi-fi access for members too. So, why am I giving up on such riches? As you may be aware, the subscription has gone up 80% from £210 a year to £375, to pay for an extension to the building. It sounds a lot, but it's still cheap for a base in the centre of London with hot and cold running wi-fi, a lot of wonderful books, and an iron-floored shelving stack that sounds like the gantries of HMP Slade when you walk through it. I'm just spending less and less time in London these days, and I don't have £375 to spare at the moment. Even before the rise, I was umming and ahhing about whether I could justify the outlay. The rise made my mind up for me, accompanied by an astonishingly puffed-up circular from Sir Tom Stoppard justifying the rise and suggesting that anyone who disagreed was a twat. I'm hoping that my exile is a temporary one, as I can't think of a better waste of £375, but until I have that much to pee up the wall, Sir Tom will have to do without me.