Two excellent excuses to visit libraries…….. not that I really need an excuse, but it is lovely to have a reason to visit lots of new libraries in a week!
First up was Fun Palaces weekend: 6-7 October. And while there is a great Fun Palace in Chatham, I wanted to find some libraries taking part, so we headed north of the Thames to Essex. Our original plan was to try and visit 3 (in 3 different library authorities!) but the traffic thwarted us – so we’ll have to visit Chelmsford library another time.
We were successful in finding 2 library Fun Palaces though – the first in Grays library, Thurrock. We arrived early, just as people were setting up, but had a chat with a lady from the knitting group, and then spent some time making a basket from woven newspaper ‘spines’.
The library is found inside the Thameside centre – which it shares with a museum, theatre and cafe.
Next stop was Westcliff, to visit one of Southend’s libraries. We used to visit family in Southend, but I don’t ever remember seeing this building. It is Grade II listed, I guess due to its unusual construction: masses of huge windows, very slim metal columns and an unusual ‘ridge and furrow’ roof.
I love the Beano characters still in situ following the Summer Reading Challenge! In the photo above, you can just make out the first evidence of Fun Palace – some of the 8 model planes which were laid out on and around the book cases. We spoke with the model maker and learned lots about different kinds of batteries (always a trade off – more power, longer life, weight – to say nothing of cost.)
There was a craft table, another with people doing quick health checks, and another with someone I later discovered was Andy – with his raspberry pis. Out in the garden were community champions promoting recycling, in front was a cycle repair team, and in a side room was a local reptile group – who had brought a tortoise, a tarantula, and 2 snakes. I was mesmerised when holding the king python – constant movement of muscles under its skin, and the most beautiful patterns.
Libraries Week runs from 8 – 13 October, and the theme this year is wellbeing. A week long opportunity to showcase the many ways in which libraries bring communities together, combat loneliness, provide a space for reading and creativity and support people with their mental health.
A very busy time for me at work – encouraging colleagues to visit their local library – then share a photo and comment, plus plans for minister to visit libraries, a series of blog posts, and lots of social media activity. Good to see #LibrariesWeek trending on twitter – there have been some amusing tweets, plus lots of lovely memories of libraries – many in response to this tweet from Radio 4.
First visit to a library today was a quick stop in Charing Cross – a long narrow building, but a bright space.
I’m hoping to visit as many new libraries as possible – and will try to fit in some with specific connections or memories for me. While I probably wont be able to make it to Kendal – the first library I was a member, or Brackley library where Mum worked, or the Huw Owen at Aberystwyth University, I did travel to the end of the Metropolitan line today, and visit Uxbridge. I was a member there when I moved back to London after studying, and remember seeing Anna McCaffrey at a ‘meet the author’ evening.
The library had a substantial refurbishment in 2014 and was bright and spacious inside.
Finally on my way back I stopped off in Ickenham – lovely small library with lots of reading and study nooks. Not a bad tally for Day 1!
As part of my [self imposed] quest to include libraries which had some kind of personal connection to me, and, as a reminder that Libraries Week is to celebrate all kinds of libraries, on Tuesday I called in to the Institution of Civil Engineers. It is their 200th anniversary this year, and there is a wonderful exhibition in their old library, aimed at encouraging young people to think about civil engineering as a career.
The connection to me is that, as the daughter of a civil engineer, I know a lot about what contribution they make, and it was good to not only explore the ‘old’ library, but also to be invited upstairs to see what is now called the members resources area (“where the librarians work”) – a slightly smaller space, but with lovely arched ceiling and lots of study nooks.
A day of Carnegies
Day 3 was a day to represent my long time interest in charting the Carnegie legacy. First stop was Islington Central, where the team had invited me to attend the launch of their new collection of material related to women’s health. A perfect idea to illustrate the wellbeing theme of this year’s Libraries Week, and a good chance to hear about their plans to develop this building.
I then took the Victoria line to its end, and visited Walthamstow library. Doubly relevant to me as besides the Carnegie history, my grandfather was born in Walthamstow, so may have used this library.
I traveled home just in time to pop into Rochester library (not a Carnegie – although there used to be one in Chatham, before the council demolished it) and use the wifi to publish a blog post and check my emails!
Out East – plus Libraries Change Lives
A shift of emphasis for Day 4, as I headed to CILIP, for their AGM and ceremony to celebrate the projects shortlisted for the Libraries Change Lives 2018 award. Congratulations to Glasgow, who were announced as winners, but I recommend watching all 3 films – as the projects in Kirklees and Newcastle are equally life changing.
Back on the libraries trail, and this time I headed to the end of the District line, to visit libraries in Havering. First stop was Upminster – one of the libraries where my mum worked in the 60s (she was there when it opened). It hasn’t changed structurally, although the huge mural on the back wall was added during a recent refurbishment.
A couple of stops along the District line, and I got off at Elm Park. The library there was opened in 2009, and meets all sorts of high environmental standards, with its sedum roof, solar panels, energy efficient lighting and insulation made from recycled newspaper.
It is also a bright and welcoming library – and I picked up a brochure for the Havering Literary Festival – a hugely impressive lineup of authors and events.
Day 5 of Libraries Week – all about library people
Back to CILIP for the conference/workshop organised by the Public and Mobile Libraries group. An interesting day, hearing about progress with the Public Libraries Skills strategy, the new ethical framework, 100% digital Leeds, and talking with colleagues from around the public library network. One session provided the perfect photo to close the week – Jo has customised ‘Guess Who?’ to show the faces of the library people who have appeared in her podcast series ‘Librarians with Lives‘.
So that was Libraries Week 2018 – exhausting, and I was really just an observer! But visiting all those libraries was an excellent reminder of how there is no such thing as a stereotype library – rather a range from old – new, traditional – experimental, calm – lively, suiting the communities they serve. And if you search the hashtag, you will see a national, colourful picture of the diverse range of services offered and people enjoying themselves in libraries all around the country.