Photo Credit: Jay Nair
Author: Jay Nair
It was a beautiful April weekend in 2009. Everywhere you turned, the spread before you was awash in the resplendent magic of spring. I trudged into the library building, having spent much of the morning wandering around and soaking in the idyllic sights of Painswick, “Queen of the Cotswolds”, with little sense of purpose or direction (very much in tune with the spirit of the land). There weren’t many people inside, just two or three. It was a warm and cosy little place, the way a library should be in a picture-perfect village of yellow limestone houses and a population of 3000 tucked away among rolling green hills in the pristine English countryside. As I stood there sifting through the flyers, maps and newsletters on a low shelf near the entrance, I felt the icy cold of a glare from the old lady behind the counter fall on me. Was I doing something I shouldn’t be doing?
So I went up to her and told her what a lovely village hers was and that I needed help to find a nice place to eat. Her countenance changed. Pointing at the old gentleman at a desk across the room, she said, “See him over there? You must ask him. That’s why he is here; to help people.” I understood the reason for her displeasure – my apparent preference for browsing through brochures while there was a real person sitting right there whose very mission was to point hapless wanderers like me in the right direction. I was threatening to deprive him of an opportunity to help!
As it were, my guide was very friendly and helpful, and very pleased to have been of assistance.
It was the most memorable 15 minutes I had spent in any library!
Epilogue: Alas, Painswick Library is no more housed in the old stone building where I found it, just south of the Church of St. Mary with its famous rows of 99 yew trees on Stroud Road. It was shut down without any warning to its dismayed patrons in December of 2009, having been found unfit for public use in an inspection. No wonder, the April 2009 edition of the “Painswick Beacon” had (proudly?) proclaimed, “Never a dull moment in the library! … A radiator had been leaking for some time, the floor rotted and a member of the staff fell through! (All repaired now, floor and member of staff!)” (Interesting how this happened around the same time I had stumbled across the threshold of this unassuming yet venerable institution.)
Thankfully, about two years later the library was reincarnated as Painswick Community Library in the upper floor of the Town Hall. I read in the Beacon that it’s doing well and runs many wonderful programs for its patrons, adults and children alike.