There has been much recent fuss – with good reason – over the closure of libraries as local authorities seek to cut costs. I’m all for libraries. When in an unfamiliar place, where else is there to go that is dry and free during a rainy interlude? As I waited for ferries to various Hebridean islands last spring, I fondly recall a number of wet mornings and afternoons spent in the warmth of Oban library, when I would otherwise have been shivering on a street corner.
My support for libraries is not purely altruistic. It turns out that Heights of Madness was loaned out on 618 occasions between its publication in August 2009 and June last year. Those figures are courtesy of the Public Lending Right. My numbers hardly compare to Dan Brown’s. Much-maligned he may be, but his book, The Lost Symbol, was borrowed an estimated 183,000 times in 2010. Even Alan Titchmarsh’s Folly managed 98,000 for the year. Nevertheless, I’m happy with my 618 – that is better than nothing, after all. And, when I think of those 618 loanees, I feel uplifted.