While spending hours at a library has always been a slightly romantic idea for this bookish girl, recent excursions to the Brooklyn Public Library have started to tarnish my rose-coloured notion. BPL is a true community that brings together so many different readers, from the little ones on the ground floor opening their first books, to the recently unemployed filling the Job Resource room, to more serious scholars of all ages expanding their horizons and finishing assignments. What the library also seems to attract, however, is a range of hackers, coughers, splutterers, snufflers, throat-clearers and conversationalists – including two high-volume policemen who for some reason were on duty on my floor last week. The other day I had to pack up all my stuff and move to another floor to get away from a young man who didn’t know there was anything other to do with all the phlegm he was creating but to channel it back through the nose and throat whence it came, turning the stomachs of all within hearing range. All except the young man, of course; he was oblivious due to the headphones he was wearing.
Yesterday we were treated to a different sort of throat-clearing over the PA system, an unintentional on-air warm-up by a clearly nervous announcer inviting us to join her at the BPL’s regular reading group, which would be starting in just ten minutes. In a deep voice with a heavy European accent she intoned slowly, “We will be discussing the book Three Cups of Tea.” At which point all the people on my floor looked up from our communal wooden desks and burst out laughing.