A Kind of Library

Sarah Todd Taylor, author of Arthur and Me, shares her favourite library, as the Prime Writers mark National Libraries Day:

When I was doing my PhD I spent every day in the gorgeous National Library of Wales. It’s a wonderful place, a huge open space with bookshelves rising up on two sides of the main reading room and a view out to sea at the end. The staff are lovely and as it’s a copyright library it has an immense collection, including manuscripts, maps and a fabulous sound and video archive.

NRR 2

National Library of Wales Reading Room

As it holds so many birth and death records it’s very popular with genealogists and I used to run into quite a few of them. Their dedication to uncovering every tiny bit of their family’s history was inspiring and I had some great chats with them about the forensic style of that branch of historical research.

One day I got chatting to a lovely lady in the canteen over lunch and she said ‘I wonder if you could help me, being a Welsh girl.’ Well, eager to do my best I said I’d help if I could. ‘I’m a bit confused as to why there were so many dog breeders in Wales,’ she said. I was a bit confused too, so I offered to take a look at the document she was using (although what I know about genealogy you could write on a postage stamp). After lunch we went upstairs and she showed me the records she was using…..and I had to explain as tactfully as I could that that wasn’t quite what ‘collier’ meant.

To this day I don’t know if she was winding me up – there was definitely a twinkle in her eye.

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