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LIBRARIES

Was Cicero (the Roman scholar) right when he said: “if you have a garden and a library you have everything you need”? Probably…

Islington has a lovely mix of libraries. There are the old ones steeped in history – North and West. The super-duper ones where you can find anything – Central and Finsbury. The purpose built one – Mildmay, which opened in 1986 and N4 in 2004. There’s even the one in a port-a-cabin waiting to be rebuilt – John Barnes. Bonus point: all the libraries are cosy places to read when the weather turns chilly as they’re kept office hot.

Every library offers shelves of temptation. During this trip Get Together discovered that six-times Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy, 41, has become a columnist for posh men’s style mag, GQ and caught up with the latest sax and reggae releases in the black music monthly, Echoes. There’s more: you can join a book club, use free public computers and free wifi in any of the libraries. It’s really easy to find what you’re looking for, even if you don’t know what you fancy. Just drift around the library looking at the big shelf displays – Fiction, Graphic Novels, World Cinema. There is plenty to keep you cheerful too from hygge to how to. Either search for “wellbeing” on the computerised library catalogue or locate the Prescription Books and Mood Boosting Books. Get Together favourites include I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and book club favourite Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is fabulous too.

EAST & SOUTH OF THE BOROUGH

Finsbury Library
245 St John Street, EC1
Closed Sunday.

South Library
115-117 Essex Road N1
Closed Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
A perfect place to pop into if you’re down at Angel.

Mildmay Library
21-23 Mildmay Park, N1
Closed Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The one with a yellow interior, even the radiators are painted yellow. It also boasts a conservatory where you can settle into a comfy chair or pull up a chair to a table and read companionably, whatever the weather. As librarian Paul Cheetham said: “This is purpose built, comfortable and nice and light and airy architecturally.” It’s not a problem if you’ve forgotten your library card if you have proof of ID, as the staff can look you up.

The friendly yellow interior of Mildmay library.
The friendly yellow interior of Mildmay library.

CENTRAL & WEST OF THE BOROUGH

West Library
Bridgeman Road, N1  (see main pic above)
Closed Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.
This is on a side road one block up from Caledonian Road, near Thornhill Square’s inner garden. The entrance is very grand – a sweeping wooden staircase but take heart, all the books are on the level downstairs. Visiting on a Saturday the library was being well-used but it was still easy to nest in one of the stripey, swivel chairs with Bring Me Sunshine by weather expert Charlie Connolly, pulled from a shelf sharing the best paperbacks of the year.

Central Library
2 Fieldway Crescent, N5
Monday-Saturday opens 9.30am. Sundays 1-5pm.
This is the bees’ knees of Islington’s libraries, painted a soothing mint green. It has toilets, a reference section and rooms for community use. Possibly Cicero would like it too as it’s just by Highbury Fields – so if you fancy a stroll, check out a mood boosting book and head to a park bench.

Boost your mood with a book from the wonderfully curated Central Library.
Boost your mood with a book from the wonderfully curated Central Library.

NORTH OF THE BOROUGH

Archway Library
Hamlyn House, Highgate Hill, N19
Closed Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

North Library
Manor Gardens, N7
Closed Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.
Beautiful circular lending room, just minutes from Age UK’s drop in advice centre on Manor Gardens.

N4 Library
26 Blackstock Road, N4
Closed Sunday.
Love this library for its huge music and film selection, making it especially good if you love movies but aren’t a Netflix user. N4 is the newest of Islington’s libraries and a great place in Finsbury Park to book a computer or read magazines.

www.islington.gov.uk/libraries

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