Sunday, 6 February 2011
After feeling absolutely despondant at the state of the country, yesterday's library activism made me feel far more hopeful. Not particularly hopeful that we're not being royally fucked by the government, but that people do give a fuck, and it might take a while, but the left isn't completely dead.
Five libraries in Lewisham Borough are under threat of closure. It's the smaller libraries, but their size, and tucked-awayness that makes them valuable quiet spaces to go to. As well as providing services to people that for whatever reason possibly can't access the bigger central library.
My partner and I headed down to Catford Library first, which isn't threatened directly, but it is the library nearest to me, so I wanted to get a book out, just because I can. It was lovely and busy - about 10 kids were using it to play Magic: The Gathering, lots of people were studying or reading at the tables, most of the computers were in use, and there were many browsers. Definitely didn't feel like it was suffering lack of use at all.
There are a few stands with books selected to be of particular interest. There's an LGBT interest shelf, but I'd not noticed a table for LGBT stuff before. But it was the euphemism they picked that amused me most:
After Catford, we jumped on the 54 to Blackheath Library (the Lewisham Borough one, not Blackheath Standard which is in Greenwich Borough). We got there when it was closed for lunch... after lunch we popped in and was pounced on by a woman giving "Save Libraries" stickers out. Shortly after we got there, a vicar, complete in jaunty black hat and long frock came in and was also pounced on by the sticker woman!
There were readings by different local people. Blake Morrison read some poetry, and a piece about his dad. Lucy Mangan (from Catford, but no-one held that against her) read a piece about going to a pre-marriage meeting with her partner's vicar, without noticing the vicar sat to the side of her. She pointed out that she's an atheist, but her partner (husband, I guess) is Anglican, hence the meeting. A local historian spoke a bit about the history of education and libraries in the boroigh, and the vicar spoke a bit about printing and told the prodigal son parable. Not entirely sure what the relevance of that parable was, but hey ho!
We rushed back to Scott's to make pudding to take to a Burn's Night supper, and then went to said supper. Which was very nice, though not the focus of this post.
We jumped on the bus home from Victoria at about half one in the morning, stopping off at New Cross, and decided to drop in on the New Cross occupation! This was the bit that really gave me hope. The security guard let us in, on condition therw was no drinking, smoking, or something else you wouldn't dream of doing in a library that I can't remember, Inside was a good solid peaceful occupation, where a good mix of people were reading, talking, and dozing in the library, discussing stuff from the merits of different types of direct action to whether or not police should be let in to use the loo. My partner went out to buy some supplies for the morning (a big bag of cereal bars, lucozade, and orange juice). At about 4 we decided to go home, as we didn't have anything to sleep on and I was too sore to sleep on the bare floor. I'm a little sad that we didn't stay though.