If you look upwards, you will see the great glass elevator soaring up to the 9th floor from the 7th floor. But before you reach that, there is so much else to see - an outdoor terrace where you can take your book and enjoy the view over the city and the scents of the herbs, fruits and flowers that grow there; a suite where you can watch films from the BFI for free; a gallery, which at the moment houses an exhibition of photographs of the building of the library, and of the people involved with it. These last photographs are extraordinary: there were a couple of groups which reminded me of the composition and intensity of Rembrandt's group portraits - but I particularly liked the quirkiness of this one - apparently it was inspired by the subject's love of running and habit of doing regular stretches.
On the 7th floor is the Secret Garden, a terrace surrounding the building and another lovely place to wander. Then you take the glass lift to the top floor, or if you're a wimp who gets dizzy driving across a flyover, like me, you stagger up the 90 steps to the top.
|The Secret Garden|
And there you find another surprise - a contrast to the contemporary architecture of the new building. For here is the Shakespeare Memorial Room, which came originally from the Victorian Library designed by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. It is panelled with wood and ornamented with carvings, marquetry and metalwork, representing birds, flowers and foliage. The book cases are filled with Shakespeare memorabilia.
You emerge to yet another contrast, a terrace with extraordinary views right across the thriving, bustling city to the hills beyond.
Just before I left, I went down to the lower ground floor to look at the children's library. There are rows of seats, raked so that an audience can watch a performance, talk or reading. And - for me! - best of all: some of my books.