Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?
From novelists to genealogists, PhD students and poets, we spoke to some of the many and varied readers of the National Library of Wales to find out what they are up to behind the bookshelves.
Sarah Taylor, Author of Arthur and Me, winner of Firefly Children’s Book Prize 2014.
“When I was doing my PhD (looking at the Presentation of Aggression in Seventeenth Century British Ballad Literature) 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.
“I have loved the library since I was a teenager and was actually given special permission to access the manuscripts library to use church records as part of my A-level work. As soon as I could, I got my own reading card and loved using the library as an undergraduate. After I finished the PhD I worked at York University as a research associate and again the library was a great source of additional material to help with my work.
“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 am very sure she was winding me up – there was definitely a twinkle in her eye.
When I began writing a children’s book, I I knew that I wanted to write about one of the great heroes of Wales. We are lucky to have so many fascinating folk tales and legends.
“I still find the library it is a wonderful place to plan a book, especially from the seat overlooking the sea. The exhibitions are very inspiring too, and it’s easy to dream up stories when being told stories from Wales’ past in the exhibition halls.”
This post is also available in: Welsh