I didn't think about it until we got there but it's been years. Blimey. Could be ten?…No, more like twenty, since I was in an old library. Our local is reasonably modern. There's an amazing one in Bangor a few miles further on; all internet and lime green vinyl flooring.
Linen Hall Library, in Belfast's city centre is not like that. We were there for the launch of a book we'd designed (more about that another time) but as soon as we'd stepped inside, well, I think all three of us were struck by the beautiful. It's from another time. Actually, I'll backtrack a bit. We went in through the modern side entrance, which is a narrow but bright space that leads into a three or four story stairwell. Look up and it's all modern materials and framed prints of party political advertising. But the stairs are there to give you access; you're soon in the original library. And that feels like something out of another century. Bookish (obviously) and still; it reminded me of Tinker Tailor. I could imagine Smiley, sitting in the corner, waiting for a clandestine liaison. Or searching for a microdot in some obscure volume.
The Library couldn't be more central in the city which is why it felt like a secret place. I've passed the outside many times, carried along by the crowd. We stood outside one Christmas, regretting our misguided decision to come into town to watch the lights being switched on. Never, NEVER again.
I had no idea what was just inside those doors.