When I was growing up we lived very near to York in North Yorkshire. In the middle of York, just around the corner from the Jorvik, there was the most amazing bookshop. I still remember it with the sort of wide-eyed wonder I used to reserve just for witnessing ponies and christmas.
The thing was, this bookshop had secrets. It had a space at the back of the ground floor where children could follow footprints on the floor up the stairs to the second floor and this was where the children’s books lived. It was genuinely magical. It was one of those moments where, wobbly-legged, you’d stretch from footprint to footprint and creep into your very own Narnia (I seem to remember it was weirdly lit as well or shadowy – which of course added to the effect).
This bookshop, perhaps inevitably, doesn’t exist anymore. Last time I went up North it was a Rymans. I do kinda like Theo Paphitis (and the shadowy Mrs P) but I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of regret. The bones of the store were unchanged but the magic had gone.
It’s not an unusual tale. Sadly a lot of independent bookshops are going the same way as the onslaught of online book retailing continues. And for those that continue to survive (and good on you if you shop at them) and for the good ones and the bad ones, I just hope that there’s one bookshop out there that incites the same breathless excitement that that shop in York used to incite in me.
Until I discover that shop (and borrow my niece and nephews to go visit it) I know that there are always Children’s Libraries out there to fill the gap. If you’re poor, or broke, or cold, or wet, or have a few moments spare before you take the kids home from school; drop in and rediscover just how cool some of these libraries can be. I know there’s some hideous ones out there staffed by old harridans who stare at you if you talk louder than a shush. But there’s also some very very awesome ones. Take a look at these …
Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton. Cotsen sounds amazing. Read more about it here. I am envious and in awe.
The Trove at White Plains Public Library. The blurb describes it as combining a museum, a bookstore and a library. Genius. Challenge the public perception of a library. I love it.
Almere Library in the Netherlands. Shelving the books through a sea of foam shapes will drive the library assistants mental (I speak from experience) but it’s worth it. Busy bright and lovely. It’s worth having a look at the rest of it here as the library in a whole is stunning.
Do you know of any particularly amazing libraries or bookshops that make you feel like a kid again? Let me know ….