Fire engine sirens continue to wail outside my office window above the National Library of Wales. By now, millions around the world will have seen the appalling pictures of the library’s roof on fire.
Fortunately, the flames have been doused, and the smoke that just an hour ago issued in thick billows from the roof has been reduced to spectre-thin coils. Attention is turning to the recovery plan. I’ve added my name to the list of hundreds of volunteers who over the next couple of days will be forming chains to pass a portion of the library’s millions of books – now under threat from the huge volumes of water moving unpredictably around the building – out of harm’s way. First trial by fire, now by water.
The sight of smoke rising in thick palls – now white, now black – from the roof of the iconic building was shocking in a way that’s perhaps difficult to imagine. Shocking, I think, not just because my profession is books, but also because libraries – and especially national ones – are cultural repositories. To judge from the magnificent response of university and NLW staff, students and members …read more