It was by chance rather than by design that I became a librarian. I had been working in London for the civil service when a family crisis required me to up sticks and return to Scotland. In urgent need of a job, I studied my qualifications and found that my options were, to say the least, limited. What was I good at? I was a reasonable footballer but no Jimmy Greaves or Denis Law. I could conjugate sentences in French and German but I was never going to be able to translate Proust or Goethe. Then it hit me. I had read a lot of books; I would become a librarian.
On the recommendation of a friend of my father, I wrote to the city librarian of Edinburgh, who replied by return of post calling me to an interview. It took place in the boardroom of the Central Library on George IV Bridge. He asked what I was reading. Like everyone else at the time, I was deeply immersed in Middle Earth. This didn’t seem to appeal to my potential boss. The conversation turned to sport. Did I play table tennis? I was asked. Luckily for me, I did, and we