Tag Archives: libraries

In support of the Herne Hill’s Carnegie Library sit-in protesters

The Herne Hill Carnegie library – one of over two thousand libraries opened and funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century – was closed by Lambeth council on Thursday. Officially, anyway. There are still people in the library, using it to play chess or study for A-level exams – all as part of a sit-in protest against the council’s plans.

Lambeth council intend to repurpose the library, turning it into a “healthy living centre” which would include gym facilities and a “neighbourhood library” – without librarians or indeed dedicated library space. The BBC has reported on the story here.

The Friends of Carnegie Library stated a few weeks ago that market research, both in 2000 and in 2014, has shown significant support for the library retaining its existing uses and location. There is strong opposition to converting part of the building into a gym:

In the assessed responses to the 2014 survey 84% of respondents opposed having a gym in the building even if the library stayed in its current position.

Lambeth council have attempted to discredit protesters by accusing them of being “misleading” as the library will reopen – but have failed to address that it will not be a library that’s reopening, but a gym with a few bookshelves.

A library is more than books. It is more than computers. It is more than study space. It is a community asset where learning and reading are nurtured. It is a supporting environment that brings communities together and promotes happiness. It is a motivating place where anyone can change their future, can strive to make more of themselves than they might otherwise have had a chance to do.

Libraries have been the breeding grounds for writers, academics, researchers, revolutionaries for decades. They are the fertile ground in which people can grow. They enable and encourage social mobility. They nurture curiosity and creativity. If the government wants artists and scientists propelling the British economy in the next few decades, it should be investing in libraries, supporting them, expanding them. Not cutting librarians and turning libraries into gyms.

Lambeth council’s plans are regressive. They plan to give the library building to a private gym company, while maintaining what essentially amounts to a book room. No librarians, presumably considerably fewer books, and none of what makes a library a library. It’s certainly not what Andrew Carnegie would have envisioned when he provided money to build and stock the library and maintain it. It should be owned by the community, not by a private company seeking profit, and it should be for the purpose of encouraging and enabling learning.

If Shropshire council ever threatens to close my local library – or indeed convert it into a gym – I would certainly consider joining a sit-in protest. I use my library regularly for knit & natter meetings, and read a lot of books from it. I’ve printed off my CV in it, learned local history in it, made friends in it.

I absolutely and wholeheartedly support the residents of Herne Hill who have decided they are not going to let their library close without a fight. And I condemn Lambeth council for ignoring the people they are meant to serve.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but: Libraries are not obsolete, and they’re not just book houses

Following nationwide government cuts to libraries, author Abigail Tartellin has argued that ‘the price of libraries is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation’ in the Guardian. Libraries in Lincolnshire – and my own county of Shropshire (here’s an article about Telford and Wrekin, which is a different authority but still within the county; the same is true of other libraries under Shropshire council’s umbrella) are being closed or going volunteer-run. Some are being replaced by library buses visiting for as little as an hour a month, where once there was a library open forty or fifty hours a week.

But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. Yes, I condemn the government for these cuts. Libraries are important. But it seems a lot of commenters, discussing the Guardian article on reddit – including /r/books and /r/writing (!) – seem to think libraries are obsolete.

Stockholm public library - Wikimedia Commons
Stockholm public library. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Continue reading I can’t believe I have to say this, but: Libraries are not obsolete, and they’re not just book houses

Beautiful new Library of Birmingham opens its doors

This morning Malala Yousafzai officially opened the new Library of Birmingham. The Library aims to “rewrite the book” for modern public libraries and offer “world-class facilities and resources” (see Mission Statement). It is the largest public lending library in Europe. I think it’s a stunning building, shining out golden across Birmingham with a façade made up of over 5,000 silver and black circles. The appearance has been a bit controversial, but I adore it.

It's quite an imposing building, and some aren't fond of it, but you can't deny that the new Library is quite the eye-catcher.
It’s quite an imposing building, and some aren’t fond of it, but you can’t deny that the new Library is quite the eye-catcher.

I’ve been quite excited about this building. You see, I work for Carillion, the Main Contractor responsible for building the Library of Birmingham, and my job has involved keeping my department’s records up to date for completed and ongoing projects, including the Library of Birmingham. And since it’s been a flagship project for the company, I’ve been seeing a lot of info about the Library – and an awful lot of amazing photos.

Continue reading Beautiful new Library of Birmingham opens its doors