Top 10 Places To Learn
I have always loved libraries. I remember the weekly journey to the local community library when I was still small- me on my bike with those awkward side wheels, my mother’s hand on my back pushing me along – as the most exciting event of the week. Here was Promise, Adventure, a sense of autonomous Self all enveloped within the musty pages of library books. To me, going to the library meant that, in theory, I would one day have read everything, which meant I would know everything, which basically meant I would have grown into an person worth listening to. The things I would learn!
The logic in my six-year-old brain was that, by learning what was in all the books, I would somehow become an adult. That is not far off the truth, to be fair. It just took much, much longer than expected, and it wasn’t just down to reading. Yet even now, at 29 years old, the most dusty or ill-stocked library still holds a very real sense of promise to me. However, as I grew older, I found out that libraries are not the only places to learn. Some of my best work was created in a triad between musty book stacks, caffeine fuelled coffee shops and the run down pub at the end of the road.
LoveCamden already offers a list of Camden Libraries, and you should definitely check them out, but for those of us in need of some variation I have compiled a list of places off the beaten track that offer you a quiet place to broaden your world.
1. The British Library
I know, it hardly constitutes a hidden gem, but the British Library provides a great alternative to your home or university library. Spread out over several levels and including a café, several Reading Rooms and more research material than you could ever dream of, The British Library cannot be ignored as a great space to work. Remember to bring a list of references and valid ID if you want to use the Reading Rooms, and check out the public exhibition programme while you’re at it. www.bl.uk
2. Lantana Camden market
This is a personal favourite. Camden market has a reputation for getting overcrowded with tourists on the weekend, but during the week it is actually a wonderfully colourful yet strangely calm place. Especially in the morning it still holds that delicate atmosphere of a local market, with vendors setting up shop, people saying hello and the smell of coffee and food. Lantana’s smallest venue is located just off the canal and always has a great vibe and friendly staff. Free WiFi is available through the market’s network; just ask. lantanacafe.co.uk/lantana-cafe-camden
3. Wellcome Collection
Oddly enough, few people seem to be aware of the Wellcome Collection’s library. The museum’s quiet ambiance stretches into every corner of the building and the library has a light, airy feel to it. Tired of staring your own research? Gain some knowledge on medical history by going through the book stacks or visit their digital catalogue online. You can access the library for free by signing the guestbook or get a membership for more access to the Wellcome’s resources. Free WiFi and printing available. wellcomelibrary.org
4. Keats House Garden
If it is a sunny day and your laptop is fully charged, why not work in Keats House Garden for a few hours? A popular picnic spot during the summer, and open to the public, Keats House Garden is a great way to soak up some poetic history that might propel your work to brilliance. After all, this is where Keats composed his best-known work, Ode to a Nightingale: under a plum tree. cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/keats-house
5. Store Street Espresso
Oh, the hours I spent furiously writing, spurred on by the excellent espresso served here. And I wasn’t the only one: during the week you can find a fair few like-minded writers, sitting at small square tables, typing away at their laptops as if they were just hit in the head by Divine Inspiration. Or maybe it is just the caffeine. Whatever it is, Store Street Espresso is always buzzing with productivity. storestespresso.co.uk
6. Russel Square gardens
Personally, I find the central fountain circled with small benches the best place to sit and work, but Russel Square gardens also offer great patches of green grass to sit or lie on, and a café with both inside and outside seating serving affordable food. Steeped in literary history, this is a great place to write, edit or read.
7. London Review Bookshop
Booklovers beware! Located just a stone throw away from the British Museum, The London Review Bookshop has been a local hub for readers and writers since 2003. Browse through their selection of contemporary fiction, poetry or classics, or jump right to it and settle at a table with some fantastic cake from their Cake Shop. Being both bookshop and café, the London Review Bookshop offers the best of both worlds. londonreviewbookshop.co.uk
8. Wiener Library
One of the worlds leading archives on the Holocaust, the Wiener Library is a great place to study anything related to anti-Semitic history and the Second World War, or a good place to just find some peace and quiet if nearby SOAS is getting too crowded. Their Wolfson Reading room is open to the public on weekdays, but don’t forget to bring your ID. Copying facilities also available. wienerlibrary.co.uk
9. The Poetry Society
Funded by the Arts Council, the Poetry Society was opened in 1909 to further the “recognition and appreciation of poetry.” With an extensive array of events, publications, educational programs and a small café on site, the Poetry Foundation is a great place for young writers to develop their skills. The Poetry Café specifically invites young writers to come and work there, serving tea, coffee, food and treats throughout the day. poetrysociety.org.uk/poetry-cafe
10. Timberyard Covent Garden
I have known about Timberyard ever since they opened up their first shop in Clerkenwell. I was knee-deep into writing my dissertation at the time, and as I was living nearby, Timberyard became my everyday refuge. Serving good coffee (I especially recommend their filter coffees) and amazing caramel and sea salt popcorn in a cosy and warm space, they were everything I needed to keep my demons at bay. Now they have opened a second store in Covent Garden, and changed their business model from a regular coffee shop-where-you-can-work to consciously blending a working space with a café. tyuk.com