Last Saturday over 80 events and protests were held in libraries across the UK as part of Save Our Libraries day. I attended a Read-In event at Norbury Library in Croydon. This library, situated at the end of a busy high street, with lots of surrounding shops and facilities, is under threat of closure, along with five other libraries in the area (Sanderstead, Shirley, Bradmore Green, Broad Green and South Norwood). Norbury Residents’ Association are leading on the fight to stop closure of the library and as part of this they organised the Read-In.
When I arrived the campaigners were outside the library handing out flyers about their activities, putting up banners and asking people to sign the petition (4,000 signatures and rising) to stop the closure. I also met Councillor Maggie Mansell (Labour) from Croydon who opposes the closure, and Merton Council lead on Libraries, Martin Wilton.
I’d taken along a couple of books, as I wasn’t sure how the event was going to work. The books I chose were ‘Asterix the Gaul’ (Goscinny & Uderzo) and ‘High Rise’ (J.G.Ballard). These were my own copies, but the key thing about these books was that they were both authors I’d discovered through visiting my local public library.
It turned out though that I didn’t need to take them, as Mark Smith and other campaigners ran a well organised event that involved a summary of the campaign, why the event was being run and then readings by two children (Eve and Molly), one local gentleman (Robin) and actor Ralph Ineson (from Harry Potter and The Office). I spent a bit of time talking to Robin, who told me that he was reading from a Kingsley Amis’ book, as Amis lived in Norbury for some time. I also found out that one of my favourite Amis’ books “Riverside Villas Murder” was set in Norbury. After Ralph Ineson engrossed the audience by reading the first chapter from the first Harry Potter book, Mark Smith ended the event by telling everyone what the next steps for the campaign would be.
It was a great success, with around 200 people attending and the library staff were very welcoming. I really enjoyed the event and you could tell from the positive attitude (despite the circumstances) that many others did too. The community had got behind the campaign and made the effort to show that they do value their library.
But it’s not over yet… there’s still more campaigning to be done!
This weekend, on the morning of Saturday 12th, residents will have another opportunity to show their support for the campaign by joining in a protest march, that will start from the green in St Helens Road, SW16 and will end at the library. Further details are available from the Norbury Green Residents’ Association website. So, if you’re in the area, please make sure you get involved and go along.