Decided to use the last day of this year’s Libraries Week as an excuse to explore a few more of Kent’s libraries – as I didn’t have the work-related excuse to visit many during the week.
Did manage to find time on Friday to discover Westminster Reference library though – what an elegant building, with a fascinating history. Notable now as the first public library to offer telescopes for loan – relevant as Isaac Newton, who invented the reflecting telescope, lived in a house on that site.
Our main library tour though was on Saturday, when we did a circuit around Dartford and ticked 5 more off the list. In a contrast to other Libraries Week articles which focused on iconic libraries (BBC archives) or magnificent libraries (Heritage England) here are some of the smaller branch libraries which form a vital piece in the public library jigsaw. I’d be happy to have any of them on my doorstep (as long as they were open at times I could visit!)
I confess to having a weakness for circular and polygonal libraries – so our first stop was a good one to add to the collection.
Fleetwood library is similar in some ways to one close to Gravesend: Riverview Park library, but this one has no ‘mast’ in the centre. It is hexagonal, and inside is an open space. I loved the hedgehog book boxes in the children’s library, and the colourful mural in the entrance, which featured lots of familiar characters from children’s literature – including a gruffalo and Winnie the Pooh.
We also discovered there that Kent Libraries are running a ‘library bingo’ challenge – a good way of finding something new to read, or discovering different library services – and the possibility of winning a book token.
Temple Hill library
Moving anti-clockwise around Dartford (we didn’t visit Dartford central today, as been several times before) our next stop was Temple Hill library. Top marks for good location and free car park – this library is among lots of small shops, and close to a community centre and primary school. It looks fairly plain from the outside: reddish bricks and a flat white capped roof like so many other Kent libraries, but inside it is warm and colourful.
We’d just missed lego club (probably a good thing, or I wouldn’t have been able to take photos) – but it was lovely to speak with the library worker, and see some of the flying saucers made during a recent craft session. Top marks for ingenuity in sourcing the plastic globes! She had worked in the library for many years, and when she heard of our tour, asked if we’d been to Ashen Drive – her childhood library……… not yet was our reply…..
Ashen Drive library
Next on our list, the aforementioned Ashen Drive. Another small branch, another brick box with flat white roof, this one was built in the late 50s and is on a residential road, with trees and a small garden around it. A bright space as it has deep bay windows which look out over the grass and trees, plus a row of small windows around the top.
This was the only library we saw with a #LibrariesWeek display – balloons and posters in their large front window. I also liked their display which aimed to bring readers attention to books that they might easily overlook: Something from the bottom shelf!
Summerhouse Drive library
Another library in a residential road, this building shared lots of similarities with Ashen Drive.
It too is a small brick box with a flat roof, large display window plus bay windows and that top row of small windows that let in the light. The North West Kent family history society have a room there, and the display in the front window had lots of old photos from the area.
It was the busiest library we visited – so no inside photos of this one: there were children on the floor and showing of their halloween creations, people choosing books, and someone asking to use the library printer as she had something urgent to print out – and ‘knew the library would be able to help’.
We were also hugely impressed by the mature oak trees which lined the street – and this year have had a massive crop of acorns. You can just make out some of them in the photo.
Our last call – which completed the loop – was Sutton-at-Hone. Very different looking to the other libraries, it takes up the ground floor of a development (flats above) and has Kent timber cladding and arched windows – looking a little like a barn. It is also different in that it shares premises with a community cafe – although unfortunately that isn’t open on a Saturday – so we couldn’t end out tour with a cuppa.
We made this one just 20 minutes before it closed, but apparently it is very popular after school – when every table is occupied, and popular with older residents who meet for coffee and a chat. The cafe owner is there on the 2 days the library staff are not, and she is able to issue books, and runs several activities, including a knit and natter group.
We also saw a display about a local National Trust property we hadn’t known about: St John’s Jerusalem – an ancient chapel and lovely garden. One to revisit in the summer.
Library tourism continues
Despite the recent reductions in opening hours, good to see that all are still open on a Saturday. And good that we had no trouble parking at any of them.
More photos of all the libraries visited are in my Kent libraries flickr album. Today’s additions bring our total visited so far to 48 (out of 99, so still a lot of exploring to be done!) and the sticker collection on my laptop to 3