The Library Tribe


My name is Tony Smith and I have recently started to document my local library in a photographic project I call ‘Library Tribe’. It started as a reaction to the closure of my local branch library, which was only a couple of streets walk away. I had taken an image in there just over a year ago. The building also doubled up as my local polling station and that is where I last cast my vote in the May 2010 parliamentary elections. I don’t recall being asked to vote on losing my library at the time.






 Above, Grappenhall library as it was March 2010

The library was a single room, but a very friendly meeting place for the locality. The librarian there was also an old neighbour of mine, with children who had grown up at local schools. So she knew what books would match the adjacent school projects etc.

Researching the closure on the web it’s clear that some savings were at the root of the decision avoiding too much local consultation with parish council etc. Very sad.

I have always been an enthusiastic user of local libraries in Glossop in Derbyshire UK, where I grew up, Liverpool, where I worked for a number of years and in Cheshire, where I have spent the last twenty or so years. I have also encouraged my son, who is nearly eight, to get to know them too. As a consequence his reading has come on leaps and bounds and he has a real thirst for knowledge. This ‘Worlds biggest machine’ type books, have really brought his experience to life.

NewImage Ramblers Best walks In Britain

I am somewhat baffled about how a big chunk of the population know little about libraries, what they offer and why they are an important institution that should be preserved. By ‘preserved’ I don’t mean in amber, like prehistoric spiders. Libraries have a different role than twenty or even ten years ago.

A school friend who was a librarian was instrumental in getting me more hooked on what the library, something I paid for out of my council tax, could do for me. She let me know that for 25p I could request the library to purchase any new or obscure music album. These were the days of the 12” vinyl long player and much of my extensive love or music was formed at this time.

Libraries also furnished me with Linguaphone and language tapes to learn the basics to backpack around Japan, South America and Europe. Also some of the guide books and maps to plan it came from various libraries too.








 The Dilbert Principle

For work too while I have lived in Warrington, north west England, libraries have been an invaluable source of textbooks on everything from database design to better use of Adobe Photoshop. I have never needed to use the local archives, but I know plenty of friends and family who have. Always they have told me of great service they had and the genuine interest of local library archivists.

NewImage The Lost Life Of Eva Braun

During my Library Tribe project I have met many people coming out of the library. Some are reading for pleasure, fun, work or self-help. Many borrowers are taking out books for advice to help others. This is becoming more relevant as UK CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau) finding is also being cut. Rather than having places to go for help, everyone will have to increasingly help themselves or each other.

Many people I have met too have been in there using the internet, showing that again libraries are adapting. Not everyone can afford to have the internet, or sometimes a land-line at home these days. Providing it stays open I know that my remaining local libraries have a lot to offer. It’s important we spread the word before these valuable resources are lost forever. For Warrington there is also the irony that this was its Central Library was the first rate-supported library in the UK, revolutionary in Victorian times. One more reason for no more cuts here please!