Category Archives: stories

Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre

Concerns have been raised with Voices about upcoming library cuts in Cambridgeshire especially about plans for the Central Library;

“Councillors are set to discuss proposals to create an enterprise and innovation centre in Cambridge Central Library at the next Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee on 17 March. In January the Committee endorsed plans to develop a new strategy for the future of our Library Service in order to meet tough financial savings. Part of this work involves us working with others to increase support for people to build skills and employment whilst encouraging local economic growth. Proposals are being put forward to change the third floor of Central Library, enabling the service to develop an income whilst supporting employment prospects and small local businesses.”

We’ve been told that this proposal will actually mean that the third floor of the Central Library will be subletted and will become a ‘Library Enterprise Centre’. The Regus Group, a multinational corporation that lets office space in prime locations for profit, has been mentioned which fits neatly with this recent article:

“Regus said yesterday it planned to bridge the gap between higher education and working life by launching offices in universities and public libraries.” [Source: CityAM]

There are also concerns about the affordability of this office space for small local businesses, loss of stock, loss of affordable community meeting space used by reading groups etc and the loss a popular cafe much loved by older library users. There is a feeling that these changes will have a detrimental impact on the library being perceived as a true community space. Concerns have also been raised with us about transparency and lack of consultation before protracted negotiations with Regus and the councillors’ decision.

For more information and background see;

Cambridgeshire County Council – Enterprise centre proposals set to be discussed

Cambridgeshire County Council – Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre

Cambridgeshire County Council – Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee – 17th March 2015. Please note the document titled ‘Report’ under item 5 Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre.

Cambridgeshire County Council – Library Services : developing our approach for the future

Work, Play and Family Time at the Library

The following article was submitted by Helen Ball.

As a child I used to love Saturday afternoons when my mother would take me to the library for an hour or two. As she perused Virginia Andrews novels or chatted with the librarians I would curl up the same purple, threadbare armchair and get lost in the works of Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl. The thrill of sifting through those books, the painful deliberation of deciding which ones would come home with me and the pride I felt upon receiving my first library card all stay with me today. But never could I have imagined how important this building would become to me as I grew up and became a mother myself. This is my story.

Work

I became disillusioned with my old job as an administration office manager within weeks of returning from maternity leave. I halved my hours but still found myself desperately missing my 9 month old son. The childcare fees were extortionate and I felt that working part time meant that I wasn’t able to fully commit to either my working role or my role as a mother. After my second child was born my mind was firmly made up and I decided to work for myself from home. I’d done a little freelance copywriting, blogging and content providing in the past so I found it easy to pick up work and by the time my kids had started school I had regular clients and was earning good money from my freelance writing.

The only problem was that I found it hard working from home. I was constantly distracted by the housework (or TV) and was used to the routine of going out to work so staying at home somehow made it harder for me to manage my time and schedules. Now my kids were in school I had no reason to stay in the house – I could go somewhere to work. But where? I remembered the library and that mysterious second floor that I’d had no interest in as a child because it was full of reference books and serious looking people tapping on computers. And it was on that second floor, in the same snug corner behind the geography textbooks that I set up a makeshift office for myself. Of course I had to pack it up every day but the routine of going out to work in a quiet place with no distractions made me so much more productive. This year I am in the drafting stages of my first novel and I just know that most of it will be written within the walls of the library.

Social

Working at the library during weekdays meant I often saw the same faces. Like me, some people would come to study or work. Others would come in the morning to read the papers. One man from a homeless shelter came every day to read in the warmth because he had nowhere else to go. As time progressed I formed friendships with some of the people I regularly saw there and we spoke about our work, our families and our lives. Writing can be a very sedentary, lonely job that can become isolating quickly so for me, those brief, hushed conversations between the bookshelves or in the cafe at lunch were invaluable. By spending so much time at the library I also got to learn about the variety of groups and workshops they host there during the week. On more than one occasion I abandoned my work and joined in the the book club and the knitting class and once again got to meet like minded people and learn new skills.

For the kids

There are also a lot of activities on for babies, toddlers and children in my library. My youngest child adores story and rhymetime and my eldest was over the moon when he got to meet his favourite author, Nick Sharratt, when he visited on a tour. During the school holidays we always try to take part in at least one organised event at the library and visit regularly so they can pick out their books just as I did as a child – the other day I even spotted my daughter reading in the same purple chair that I used to curl up in. With studies indicating that reading more books improves life chances for children I am eager to encourage my kids to spend as much time as possible in the library and luckily they seem more than happy to oblige.

The figures that indicate over 10% of our libraries are at risk of cutback and closure from local councils don’t just concern me, they terrify me. I rely on my library as do countless others, each for various reasons. People argue that with the rise of technology and e-books libraries are outdated and simply not needed anymore but this couldn’t be further from the truth. They are about so much more than books – they are a place of comfort, refuge, interaction and an integral part of the community.

On the people who use libraries

A library users blogs his discovery of his local library and the people who use them.

The idea to start using the library came to me when it started to turn cold. I had been studying from home but was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate as the temperature started to fall in the September and October months. Sticking to my self-enforced rule of no heating before 5pm and putting on another layer of clothing becoming no longer practical I had no choice but to relocate my operation. With the promise of free electricity, heating and access to free newspapers I packed up my books and sandwich bag pencil case and headed to the book house.

I pull out a chair and take a place at one of the desks. I unpack my things with the precision a doctor lays out their tools before surgery. Paper check, pen check….after ten minutes I glance up to find out what kind of company I’m in. The characters I see before me are not who I was expecting to see down the local Library.

Two old women sitting together, elbows touching, reading from the same page, occasionally remarking on what they have just read; a bearded man with a red/black chequered laundry bag one side of him and a sleeping bag the other, busies himself taking various books from the shelves; replacing them with another stack once his interest has been satisfied ; various elderly gentleman dotted around the room leisurely leaf through the pages of the paper they have loyally read for years; a small group congregates in a circle in front of the large print section and talk away the hours and most intriguingly a young black man with a sleeping bag stands over unattended papers and mumbles and chatters to himself in a language I don’t recognise. I get the impression that none of them probably even own a library card.

Over the coming months I saw these same faces and many more again and again. It was apparent that for many people the library was the only place they had left to go and the only place where they might not be alone. I watched a man walk by, stopping to aimlessly turn the pages of a paper left open on the desk before moving off in another direction, in the hope there was some place else he had to be. Another patron tips a book back on the base of its spine with their fore finger, gives it a quick cursory look and pushes it back into its slot. At the end of one particular day a short stocky man with a back pack enters and starts to straighten the place up and is quite obviously upset at the way people have abandoned the papers and magazines sprayed across the tables, and the chairs which have now escaped from under their desks darting off in all directions. He is not an employee and I never see him again.

The black man has a smell that says he has no home. He wears the same teal coloured woollen sweater, grey trousers and worn out black leather shoes every day. He appears and disappears; I wonder if he lives behind one of the book cases. Each time I see him I think this is the day he will do something crazy, however his behaviour never gets more out of hand than occasionally breaking the quiet with some stifled laughter at something he has just read or talking to himself. On the days he joins me at my table I begin to imagine a relationship starting between us; my Robert Downey JR to his Jamie Fox, like in the film ‘The Soloist’. Talking to this mysterious man, I learn he is a brilliant man but cannot read English. Setting my own studies aside we agree to meet at the library every day at 11am and we go through the alphabet and he learns to read and write English and I nurture his talents and buy him food and find him a place to stay but he is an illegal and cannot stay and……of course I can’t even get up the nerve to say, ‘hi’ and I keep my head down until I am certain he has gone again. I am gobsmacked one morning when I see a man walk by and say hello to him and without looking up from what he is reading in perfect English, he quickly says ‘hello’ back.

With the government still on its austerity drive, many of our public services have now had their budgets cut and many of our libraries have fallen victim to these cuts and forced to close or be community run by volunteers to keep them going. 493 libraries (411 buildings and 82 mobiles) are currently reported as either likely to be closed or passed to volunteers since 1/4/13 (source: www.publiclibrariesnews.com) When a library does close apart from losing a rich resource to the community where you can do anything from check out a book to register a birth or death, I wonder where those people who depend on the library go; where else provides a warm and safe environment that asks for nothing in return? A place where people go to meet and socialise, not just learn. I think this is what troubles me most.

I only realised just how important the library is to some people’s lives when I started to use it regularly and saw for myself the vital service it provides.

When researching libraries I found this quote which summed up perfectly what I see when I am there:

‘Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries’ – Anne Herbert.

Miranda’s story

Libraries mean a lot to me.
I am 9 years old and I remember when I got my first library card.  I also remember picking out my first ever books from the library.  I used to sit down by a big book box and scatter through them to find a suitable one.
A library is a place where I can sit down and take a book off the shelf and read.  I like sitting down on the carpet in silence and reading in peace. A library has variety of all different types of books that you can learn from not just enjoy.  I love reading and the joy of picking it off the shelf.
So please don’t shut down any libraries!

Paige’s story

I was shy as a child and so I used to escape into the library at primary school at break-time.  The librarian there never failed to fill my arms with books I loved – tales of girls falling back in time, strange new worlds, and anything about misfits of any description. I can still vividly picture the yellow and orange beanbags, the blue-green carpet, the dusty sunshine coming in through the windows.  You can imagine how proud I was eventually to ‘join’ the staff, working at the circulation desk stamping out books for the other children.  The library was my sanctuary and my ticket to a better place, and it still is. From the very start it was an environment that nurtured my lifelong love of reading and writing, which still keeps me sane decades later.

Fiona’s story

I have been a member of a library for as long as I can remember, and I never used my library card more than when I was on maternity leave – when else do you get weeks off work to do nothing but sit and read? The lovely librarians watched my pregnancy progress with real interest – after all I saw them as often as I saw my midwife. I took my new daughter to the library within days of her birth and she was registered as a member. The library staff always said she was their long-serving member, since she’d been going in since before she was born. She’s 22 now and away in university. One of the first things she did on moving was join the city library.

Have you got a story about your local library? Send your stories to stories@voicesforthelibrary.org.uk and we will be happy to share them.

What Libraries Meant To Me When I Was Eight Years Old

Alex sent us this heartwarming post about the impact libraries had on her life.

When I was 8 years old I was given my own library tickets. It changed my life.

Like most children at that age I was curious. I loved asking why and I always had another six questions when you answered the first. My parents, reasonably indulgent, comfortable financially, were happy to buy me a handful of books every month when I wanted to add to my burgeoning book collection. They both read themselves but their tastes were fixed and their books couldn’t be shared with me. Mills & Boons romances, aga sagas, Dick Francis titles and David Attenborough books just aren’t designed for kids.

When I was 8 years old though I became more difficult to cater for as a junior reader.

I had the books my parents bought me and books that I got from the school library but these really only dealt with my ongoing interests in obvious subjects like Ancient Egypt. If I suddenly became curious in something that had just caught my eye, say bridge building for example or the history of lighthouses, my parents weren’t inclined to buy me a book for the passing fancy and nine times out of ten my school library was just too small to have anything on these ever more niche curiosities.

After a while it was obvious to my mother that I had outgrown what home and the school could provide. I was getting frustrated with the books available to me and I was reading less.

Juggling awkward library hours and school runs we started going to the public library regularly. It was this sudden freedom to take out any (suitable) book on any subject that saved me as a reader.

I didn’t have to worry about whether I’d still be interested in geology in a month or check the cost of a book and only very, very rarely was there a subject I couldn’t find out about. I also discovered proper, grown up encyclopedias which enchanted me, became fascinated in Teach Yourself books (I learnt shorthand at 10, Finnish at 11 and promptly forgot it all at 12 but I had tremendous fun doing both) and started borrowing classical music tapes after hearing Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and being completely captivated by it.

Statue of children reading

MAR212009 (c) colemama/Flickr

My parents were, quite frankly, baffled by almost everything I borrowed. They had no interest in classical music, thought the Finnish obsession was bizarre and shook their heads over the endless books on lighthousekeepers and engineers. But the point is that I was trying everything and they were happy to let me because it was safe, cheap and supervised.

Being part of that library, choosing for myself and trying everything, having the barriers of cost and access removed, getting to know what I liked and didn’t; these freedoms made me a better reader and a much better thinker.

One thing that often gets overlooked by those discussing the impact of library use on children is just how many conversations it can open up for them. The librarians, quickly spotting a kindred spirit, asked me about the books I borrowed. They recommended other books to me, teaching me to assess whether a book was a ‘good fit’ for me and whose recommendations to trust. Reading more widely taught me to compare books and authors and gave me confidence in saying what I liked and why. Explaining why I’d borrowed a specific book to my parents and answering their questions got us talking about books even though our tastes were worlds apart.

Those six little bits of cardboard gave me access to all sorts of conversations I just wouldn’t have had without them. They led to me studying academic subjects I wouldn’t have pursued otherwise (Latin and Classical Civilisation), kept me curious and enthusiastic and taught me that having eclectic tastes does not have to mean bad or trivial. They taught me to take an active role in my own, ongoing, education.

Today I read widely and have overflowing bookcases at home… but I still treasure and regularly use my library card. I use it just as I always have – to read more widely than I could afford to on my own and to feed my endless curiosity.

Alex grew up to be a book blogger too and writes at Alex in Leeds.

faceBOOK – a week in the life of a branch library

Keith Pattison is a photographer based in Newcastle, working mainly for theatre companies including RSC, Almeida, Bill Kenwright and West Yorkshire Playhouse. Last year he published a book of photographs of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike (NO REDEMPTION) with the author David Peace, along with an exhibition which toured nationally.   He is currently working on a project photographing the faces of post industrial communities.

In February this year, photographer Keith Pattison was invited by councillor Ann Schofield and the librarians at Cruddas Park library to take photographs of people visiting the library.  Over the course of a week, he photographed a variety of library users demonstrating the many ways in which they use the service.   Those photographed either held up the books they had borrowed or a card on which they had written the purpose of their visit. These photographs have now been published in faceBOOK, a collection celebrating the role of Cruddas Park library in the community.

We are very grateful to Keith for allowing us to reproduce a selection of the photographs here.  You can view the complete book on Keith’s website.

CruddasPark-03512 CruddasPark-01281 CruddasPark-01031 CruddasPark-00472 CruddasPark-0374 CruddasPark-0358 CruddasPark-0347 CruddasPark-0324 CruddasPark-0163 CruddasPark-0152 CruddasPark-0136 CruddasPark-0117

Celebrate Your Library project

This guest blog post from Hilary Chittenden explains why she and Victoria started their “Celebrate your library” project.

My mum has worked in public libraries for nearly a decade now, and I have always loved hearing about the huge variety of people that she interacts with on a daily basis. In one single day she can act as a teacher, friend, children’s entertainer, information point – all depending on what the public want to use the library for. It dawned on me that libraries are so much more than books but are molded by the people that use them. They mean something different to every person that walks through their doors and the library users are what make libraries so great. Yes, we all know that books are brill, that libraries play an important role in children’s educational development and allow people of all ages and backgrounds access to books and information, but what about the social importance of libraries? I asked people the simple question “Why do you love your library?”:

“The library feels like the hub of the community. We recently moved to the area and going to the library has not only provided fantastic reading material for the whole family but also it has made us feel part of the community.”

“The library has been a lifeline since I had a baby… It enables parents to socialise when they may be isolated”

 Celebrate My Library Comments Cards

“I enjoy coming in to read the papers and borrow the books. It gives me something to do during the day.”

“Since moving here two years ago I have met many mums who have similar aged children. I especially like my library because the staff are soooo welcoming and hands on with the children!”

“The ladies in the library, I’ve known them for a long long time. They know me and I know them and they are so helpful. If I ever need any information they go on the computer and they print it off for me.”

“We’ve been coming to the library since we came to the country. It was great when we had just moved and didn’t have the internet.”

“I’m out of work at the moment, and the library provides me with a work place environment and office style facilities so I can concentrate better on finding work.”

“When I’m home from uni in the holidays I come here to do my revision. It’s a focused space, nice and quiet and I can’t work well at home. I use it for the desk space – I come in and get my head down.”

“I’m learning English. My sister teaches me and I come in and read to get better. I bring my children to read the picture books and stories. I love the library.”

“We get a lot of people coming in to the library that I worry about – where can they go, who they can talk to, when we’re closed for Christmas.”

“It became more important when my husband died… It allows me to escape.”

This small selection is just a handful of the overwhelming feedback I received from speaking to library users up and down the country. There were so many touching and varied reasons that people loved and relied on their libraries. This inspired me to start ‘Celebrate my Library’ to do just that – to share all the reasons beyond the books that libraries are so important to peoples lives. Our ultimate aim is to help people who don’t yet use libraries to see how much they can better your life (but it’s early days yet.)

For now we are concentrating on speaking to as many people as we can about why they love their libraries. We have been working with 8 different councils around the country, and are planning some events that will collect and circulate people’s love for libraries. Our next endeavor is going to be a children’s poetry/story writing competition along the “I love my library” theme with successful applications being teamed up with illustrators to create a beautiful book and exhibition. We then plan to use the funds raised to publish a newspaper of all the different reasons that people love their libraries and circulate it… (phew!) but like I said, it’s early days yet!

Our main aim right now is to spread the word – Celebrate your library! And not just for the books.

If you want to know more about our project, get involved or tell us why YOU celebrate your library, please get in touch at celebratemylibrary@gmail.com or visit our blog at www. celebratemylibrary.tumblr.com/.

We’d love to hear from you.

Hilary and Victoria

@hilarychitty

@v_m_foster

Henry’s story – Libraries are being sidelined

Returning to a blog post forced upon most of my fellow school compatriots, in this course, I’d like to talk about Libraries. I am currently partaking in the DofE Bronze course, something that I will talk about at a later period, probably after I have completed it, due to my opinions on the true nature of it and perhaps how those comments might be taken in a way not beneficial to my completion of it,  and as part of my volunteering, I am working at a homework club, after school. This is a rather simple task, where I sit there and help children with their homework, and attempting to impart my knowledge to them in an interesting way without them vomiting profusely. But this has brought something back to me; the fact that Libraries are darn useful. I can recall myself, sitting in a library and reading books about Physics and History at the ages of 6 and 7. But Libraries are now an endangered species. They are at risk of cuts by local councils, bottlenecked by old systems and ideals for running the libraries. But as the internet is becoming more and more powerful, libraries are being sidelined. The extra services they provide over the books, such as the homework clubs, or use of the computers are required for some people, and indeed help to flourish people and their skills. But I think that for now, libraries are here to stay – for the sole reason the internet is not fully open. Libraries represent the diversity of knowledge and the freedom of that knowledge currently does not exist fully on the internet. It is possible that if several censorship laws are passed, knowledge previously garnered from the internet would have to be found in a library, a nostalgic experience for many. Thus, I think what has to happen is we use libraries as our backup, for the possible burning of the modern day Library of Alexandria; the hub of knowledge that is the internet. We require an equilibrium between the two. This may simply be the case however in countries with more wealth, but I think that in poorer countries struggling to make the jump, knowledge is what is needed, and the library can provide that. But libraries have to be supplemented by the great hive-mind of the Internet, to allow the extra services and knowledge that the library provides become a small amount compared to what the internet provides, but have enough force to show the governments that Libraries are here to stay.

I write this blogpost inspired by, and hoping to share awareness of National Libraries Day, occuring on the 4th of February. I thoroughly encourage you to spend some time in your library that day, and perhaps help out with spreading this post, and National Libraries Day.

On 2 interesting library related notes, firstly, has anyone seen my hardback copy of Snuff, by Terry Pratchett. And secondly, the library I volunteer at, well I owe them about £1350 in late fees for a book I “borrowed” when I was 5. It was about trains. Yeah…

Henry (direthoughts.com)