Here I am in the lobby at Worthing Library. In my hot little hand, a list of 20 members of our Questers group who have signed up for a behind-the-scenes visit to our local library. I am hoping that they all turn up...
You may be thinking, why the library? Don’t we have anywhere more exciting to visit? Well, you would be surprised – and so were we. Walking through the automatic
revolving doors (I always get quite ridiculously excited by automatic revolving doors) and into Worthing Library is like entering an Aladdin's Cave full of information, activities, events and opportunities.
First of all we had to get organised. Organising our Questers group is a bit like herding cats. What is more, not to put too fine a point on it, we are talking about herding cats of a certain
age. As long as we were in the lobby, I could keep them more or less contained though the odd couple did wander off to look at paintings on the wall or to investigate the contents of the display cases. However when our sweet, but soft-voiced, guide explained
that he was taking us down to the basement for tea and coffee, most of the group were too busy nattering to register what was happening. When we did start moving, we went here, there and everywhere. It was just like that famous sketch in Monty Python
depicting the 100 yards race for people with no sense of direction.
Amazingly, we did all make it down to the basement where we enjoyed our refreshments before
visiting the Lecture Theatre, the Schools Studies Store and the Reserve Store. Being Questers, each and every one of us possessed of an inquisitive (not to say, nosey) nature, we particularly enjoyed being allowed into the Reserve Store where the public
are Not Permitted. It was a manifestation of that rebellious streak which grows ever stronger with age.
After this we divided into two groups. What a good
idea! How it actually came about is a mystery to me but I eventually found myself in the Lending Library with one group, while our fellows were upstairs sampling the delights of the Reference and Local Studies Library where they pored over maps of our town
dating back to the 1890s and argued over which road was now the A259 and which the A27. Forty minutes later we changed over. It was now well over our allocated time for our visit but our hosts – the soft-voiced librarian and his colleague – were
incredibly generous with their time, even though we were in danger of encroaching upon their lunchtime.
The reason I wanted to organise this particular visit was
because I know, from my experiences working as a volunteer on the Summer Reading Challenge, that if you just step through the doors of the Library (revolving or not) and look around there is just so much going on of interest. There are Reading Groups
for a start – not only your common or garden reading groups, but one especially designed for those with hearing impairments for whom participation in a regular group can be a frustrating experience struggling to lip read when everyone is talking at once.
Then there is something called the Six Books Challenge for those who left school with only the basics of reading – the idea is that, once they have read their way through half a dozen books, they will be well away.
The library of today is very different from the libraries we Questers remembered from our childhood. I recall not being allowed to join the library until I was 7 years old – today new-born babes
in arms are able to borrow books. When I moved to Uxbridge as a new wife and mother and went to join the library there, Mr B had to vouch for me because I was under the age of 21. I was apparently quite old enough to bring up a child – but
not to borrow a library book.
Back in the basement we collected our coats before heading back out into town. Everyone was agreed that it had been a splendid
visit. Everyone, that is, who made it back to the basement. As Visit Organiser I feel unable to guarantee that every single one of my Questers actually left the building. I may have counted them all in, but I certainly didn’t count them all out. Like
cats, they had Gone Their Own Way.
Fingers crossed there’s not a Quester or two trapped in the Reserve Store...