There is nowhere in the world (that I know of) that is quite like St Deiniol’s Library in Hawarden, Flintshire. It was founded by Gladstone as a place where people(mostly academics and clergy) can stay and study in the excellent (and beautiful) library. Not unlike Dr. Williams’s Library, another amazing place, it has large holdings of theological works (though with a more Anglican and less Dissenting slant than Dr Williams’s), but St Deiniol’s is also wonderful for those with an interest in nineteenth century studies, and is perfect for me. Every time I look up a book on the library catalogue, expecting that it won’t be here, it almost always is. I would stay here forever if I could. Not only is the atmosphere conducive to study, but the food is good, and all one has to do is eat meals and work in the library – my idea of Heaven! There are always interesting people with whom to chat at meal times, and, should you need some fresh air, there is a beautiful park nearby for walks (although it’s very muddy sometimes!) I’ve been here twice before, and am amazed at how many of the very friendly staff remember me (and my fondness for the breakfast porridge!) At mealtimes one can have the most fascinating conversations with people who are here for meetings, or working on obscure PhDs (even more obscure than mine!), writing theological books or just here for a break and a bit of reading. In a day and a half I’ve probably already written more than I do in the average week. And, moreover, it’s somehow so much nicer to work in such conditions – none of the aggravations of university libraries, and so peaceful. At 9pm last night I was still sitting here in a little turret-like bit of the library (which I refer to as my Baptist turret as I am – randomly – surrounded by books on Baptists), with a lamp on in an otherwise pitch-black library, and I feel as though I’ve stepped back in time. I highly recommend a stay here! (oh, and did I mentions the fantastic cakes…?
I cannot believe your great timing 🙂 Not an hour ago I was responding to Bosco Parrasio’s blog about a magnificent library at http://boscoparrasio.blogspot.com/2009/11/weekend-reading.html “Before I read the text of your post, I opened up the library photo to see if I recognised the location. It had your name on the bottom of the photo, so I thought LUCKY BUGGER, WHAT A PLACE TO STUDY!!!I do believe that an excellent library is essential for scholarliness. Not only for the reference material that you can pull down off the shelves. But for the atmosphere created by timber, leather binding, portraits, serious and comfortable chairs, parquetry.. and the smell of learning”.
But but.. you have added two other crucial element. Firstly a serious scholar cannot succeed with good quality food, white wine and coffee. The smell of great coffee is as important as its taste. Secondly the library needs to look out onto green fields, fruit trees, lakes and grazing animals. Not having windows or looking out onto huge lumps of concrete stunts the brain, I believe.
By the way, where is Hawarden, Flintshire?
Thanks for your comment; I quite agree – the coffee, food, countryside etc add to the experience here – I just wish I didn’t have to leave! Hawarden is in North Wales (UK) so I’m afraid it is quite a long way for you! But if you ever plan a research trip to the UK then this is definitely the place to go!