Their website told me that Charing Cross Library is ‘a busy library serving residents, commuters and the local Chinese community’ but I wasn’t expecting to find it quite so buzzing on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Nor was I prepared for how well the library catered for the Chinese community.
I saw it in the signs …
the books, of course …
as well as through the decorations.
One man I tried to talk to gestured to me sadly that he did not speak English and then went back to reading his chinese newspaper.
I spoke to Greg who told me that has been using this library for 24 years. Today he was here with his two daughters, who were half-chinese and half-french.
“I always come here. I’ve moved around London but I come back to this library when I go to Chinatown, for eating or shopping. This library has the best stock of chinese books in London.
It’s a centre for us. We can go to Chinatown and come here in just one visit.
My daughters are half-chinese and they like eating chinese food. I tempt them to come here by promising them a tasty lunch afterwards.”
I explained to Greg that I was also half-chinese but that, when he asked, I could not speak or read chinese myself.
“Well, it’s never too late to learn,” said Greg and pointed me towards the library shelves where I could find a book to get me started.