Yesterday was National Libraries Day in the UK – a celebration of libraries – not just public, but also academic, specialist, business, health, schools, etc… all libraries!
I was hoping to celebrate in the week building up to today by taking part in my own librarithon – ie visit as many different interesting libraries as possible. This was inspired by Zoe Toft who, along with her children, took part in her own charity librarithon last year. In the end, due to the fact that I had to complete a major project in work and had a major meeting to prepare for and attend, the librarithon didn’t happen. Oh well!
Instead I took part in a mini-librarithon today in London with a couple of other librarians - @usernametaken10 and @misshelved - who fancied exploring a few new places. The aim wasn’t to take in as many libraries as possible just for the sake of visiting them. We decided to visit the Dickens & the Supernatural exhibition at The British Library, two new libraries in Dalston and Canada Water and an ‘Idea store’ in Whitechapel, which was running an author event.
As we were in London, and as it’s a national library, The British Library seemed like a really good place to start. I’ve visited this library a few times. Every time I’ve been there it’s to visit an exhibition. Exhibitions in a library are a great way to provide focus on information/resources held by the library that might have otherwise been hidden away – hidden away in terms of location, and in Dickens case, hidden away in his body of work. He’s probably more widely known for fiction that touches on social history, rather than the supernatural. Exhibitions such as this get potential readers thinking about the author in a different way. It was quite a small exhibition – took us about 20 minutes to look at it – but it was interesting to find out about how his early childhood and the people in it influenced him. He was sceptical about ghosts and the paranormal, but that didn’t stop him from writing classic ghost stories, such as The Signalman.
Next, we took the bus over to Dalston and wandered around the newly built C.L.R. James Library. This public area was spread over one and a half floors, broken up into glass partitioned walls. The local archives and history service was situated above it. I thought the use of the foyer area was interesting – a place for those who just want to dash in and out, to make a quick choice from a limited set of popular books. Even though I couldn’t borrow them (as I not a member of that library service), I did spot a couple of graphic novels that interested me. It made me think, “I wish we had a national library card and I could borrow this book this book right now.” Hopefully my local library will stock them. *Goes off to check the catalogue* Yes, I’ve found one of them! (Mike Carey / God Save The Queen)
Then we took the train to Canada Water Library. Again, this is another brand new library and has great views overlooking Canada Water itself. The building itself is pretty funky – as @misshelved said, on the outside it looks like a Jawa Sand crawler.
Inside the library there’s a coffee shop and quick choice section (like Dalston Library’s foyer). A set of stairs in the centre of the ground floor leads up to the main part of the library, housing the children’s library, computers and fiction. Up another set of stairs is the non-fiction section on a balcony area that over looks the rest of the library. It goes all the way around the library and up here they also have study spaces and meeting rooms. I’m not sure whether “a day in the life” of the library as shown here is actually how it is, but I could imagine spending a couple of hours a week in there just relaxing and browsing/thinking if I lived closer to it – it’s got a pretty relaxed positive feel to it.
Finally, @usernametaken10 and I headed to Whitechapel and visited the Idea Store there. It’s a few years old and is based over a number of floors (4, I think). Our aim was to go to a free author event (Austerity Writes Back) which was on for an hour and a half. We only managed to catch the end of the event (last 20 minutes or so), but what I saw/heard was really interesting, especially as some of its focus was the austerity cuts and protest. That’s sort of why National Libraries Day exists (on the back of Save Our Libraries protest day last year) and is also relevant to Voices For The Library activities. One of the authors (and publisher) Bobby Nayyar made a comment that made sense to me about the current state of affairs with the economy. It was along the lines that there’s nothing wrong with businesses making a profit, but some businesses seem focused on making an obscene amount of profit and do not understand the social impact this may have on the world around them. I also want to mention that while I was mooching around the Idea Store I spotted on the end of a shelf a biography of Andrew Carnegie. It made me smile to think that, as a philanthropist who funded so many libraries, he has a lot to be thanked for on National Libraries Day.
I really enjoyed today’s little adventure as part of National Libraries Day. On top of visiting a handful of libraries (old and new), I had a laugh and mulled over a few library related ideas with @usernametaken10 and @misshelved. I also got to explore parts of London I’ve never been to before, and I listened to a few authors talk about their books and how they were inspired.
As I sit here writing this, I also wonder if anyone using any of those four libraries I visited today was struck by some great revolutionary or genius idea that will change the world forever? It would be great to say I was in THAT LIBRARY at THAT PRECISE MOMENT when it happened… and you may well laugh, but it could happen, because that’s the sort of thing that goes on inside the minds of people who use libraries.