Bedford Library is where my education really began. I never quite got the hang of school, but I spent a lot of time in the Library. I would often end my Saturday afternoons with a cup of coffee in the Library (How advanced was that for the mid 1970s?) reading the latest edition of Scientific American.
Almost the day I left school, I discovered the adult fiction department and chose a book by Colin Wilson. He was the perfect writer for an impressionable teenager to discover by chance. As I read all the books of his they had, I acquired a list of other authors and themes to follow up. Those books led me to borrow and discover Bruckner, Wagner and Beethoven from the music library. I got stuck in the Ws for a bit, as Wodehouse was quite close by as well as a crime procedural series by another W author. I’d never know all those books were there before. Perhaps I’d thought you had to be over eighteen to look on the adult shelves!
I was eighteen when I discovered that I wanted to do art, and it was the Library that provided me with my art education. I borrowed technical books and art history books, trying out techniques and learning what it is to be an artist. I started work in Bedford, designing letterheads and things for and instant print outfit, called JayCopy, in St Peters. None of us really knew anything about design, so how did I get to learn? The Library, of course!
I suppose I could learn it all again on the internet, but I’d not have had the quiet camaraderie of others in search of knowledge and entertainment. I’d not have had the help of Librarians to show me how to find stuff out, to suggest different routes to the knowledge I required. I’d not have had the warm place to go to to learn – my flat was freezing and I couldn’t afford the electricity bills. I’d not have got the basic human interchange that leads to new areas of knowledge and learning in ways that the internet cannot ever offer on its own. I wouldn’t have been able to afford a computer anyway – so I’d have had to rely on the Library to provide that too.
Libraries are precious places. Thank you Bedford Library for keeping me on the straight and narrow and going pretty much in the right direction during what were difficult times in my life.