That is the brilliance of such priceless public places. Inspiring beyond measure. Words now fail me.
There are two great houses in our small town. In one I am never lost for words, in the other I struggle to find them. They stand tall, side by side on the lip of the old quarter, heightened by the drop to the worn river bed that rarely roars now. Restored to life in recent years and months, these twin beacons of light in the autumn evenings pulse with promise, both testaments to the wellbeing of community. How proud the people, and rightly so.
The public library is, like all such galaxies for the imagination, rich in heart and head, some young and racing, others stout and steady. It has a vast doorway that leads into, of course, all manner of worlds, adventures and histories, an open invitation to wisdom and a security, a surety of welcome and of belonging. Whenever I enter such homes of books the sense of possibility whelms. To see children absorbed always fosters hope and a smile: for the sense of where and how far you choose to go – like the dreaming mind of infinite possibilities – is a magic that can change lives; or simply steady and ground them. That is the brilliance of such priceless public places. For all the clocks on the walls I always lose track.
As an author I am bound to love books, but I live in a country that values them too, in the spirit of Sant Jordi. Never lose that. Never follow the policies of the United Kingdom where the public library service, and along with it equality of access to learning and imagination, continues to ebb away.
I do not know the trend here in Catalonia – perhaps one of you can enlighten me – but whatever local public library you have I urge you and any children in your family to use it as regularly as possible. Keep an open mind.
Meanwhile, the grand and equally distinguished structure next door to the library has been resonating for months, but the grumble of machinery has now gone. Instead music flows.
The former music school building on the other side of town was deemed no longer fit for purpose (understatement) so teachers and pupils had to decamp to the backstage rooms of the town theatre. Now they are home, in their new home, another public building where you are bound to wonder at the possibilities and (understatement) be so thankful for the imperative of equality of access to fulfilment.
They opened the doors last week so anyone in the Priorat – for it is the county music school – could appreciate what has and will flow. People crushed in. We shuffled up and down the stairs and in and out of rooms, a glorious current of curiosity and pride. We listened gratefully to worthy speeches that summed up the achievement and joy, and then the band struck up. Inspiring beyond measure. Words now fail me.
So, two seats of learning, two people-full spaces, two towering reasons to be grateful, hopeful.
Live in possibility.