Extremely busy weekend: looking at all the wonderful and diverse things going on in libraries across the country, gathering examples of where colleagues and members of the Libraries Taskforce are visiting, and doing my own library tour!
You’d think after spending all week immersed in library news I might like to take a break at the weekend (you know, watch some rugby, go out for a lazy lunch? – its OK, managed to fit that in too!) but National Libraries day is an opportunity too good to miss. I checked the website and discovered no particular events planned for my home area, but Kent Libraries were offering activities, so we started the day by heading over to Snodland library.
Their library is in the High Street, and besides library services there is also a space for the local borough council to offer surgeries. There was a book sale so I couldn’t resist 5 books for a pound. [note to self…. supposed to borrow books from the library, not fill up the house], but more importantly, there were also people reading, choosing and borrowing books, and a family in the children’s section having storytime. I did their “so you think you know libraries” quiz and was duly awarded my certificate.
Over the 20 years I’ve lived in the Medway towns, I’ve visited many of the libraries, but not all, so this year National Libraries Day was a good excuse to plan a route to fill in all my gaps.
While we’ve had many walks around Northwood Hills and Cliffe, we’d never ventured right to the northeastern edge of the peninsular, and Grain village is a long way from the rest of the Medway Towns. The library is in a former Bethel Congregational chapel (built 1893) and is also billed as a community and learning centre.
On a grey damp Saturday morning, behind that blue door was an explosion of colour and sound. The regular Saturday morning kids club was in full swing and every corner of the library had children making posters, colouring, playing with lego or on the computers. A couple of brave adults also brought back and chose new books.
I must have driven past this library many times, but never stopped to visit. The building opened in 1961 and lots of the features are classic 60s: curved concrete entrance porch, coloured mock granite tiles, wooden shelving and crittall windows. Inside, the walls are painted vivid deep pink, and many of the shelves are dark wood, but the high ceiling and huge windows means the overall impression is of light and space.
There is a mezzanine floor, with comfy looking sofas – apparently popular with the many reading groups and U3A groups who meet in the library. Just as in Snodland, there was a family having storytime in the colourful childrens section, and adult readers were scattered among the armchairs. One patron was using the free wifi to carry out some research (on a table behind me, surrounded by files and papers).
Not far from Rainham, in another part of the Medway towns I’ve never visited before, is Wigmore library. Not an attractive looking building on the outside, but with its own carpark and woods behind, its one I’ll go back to. Inside the library lobby has a display of pictures by local artists, and the childrens section has lots of creative displays on the walls (including 2 exotic looking owls).
Like Rainham, this library also has an upper section, but here it houses the computer section, while the main space has lots of mobile bookshelves and a table with a pile of jigsaw pieces……. if I didn’t have other libraries to see, I might have been there til closing!
Thomas Aveling school and community library
Final destination was a library I’ve been intrigued about for a while. Thomas Aveling library is on the site of Thomas Aveling school. During school hours it is the school library – with space for classroom activities, plus a coffee bar. From the end of school time, it becomes a public library – although staff said from 3-4.30 it is often still filled with students doing their homework and using the computers. Later and on Saturdays it is available to local residents.
The last port of call completed my visits to Medway libraries and its great to look over the full set of photos and recognise how different they are. From a 19th century chapel to a refurbishment only opened last year; partnerships with council services, adult education, and a school; 16 spaces with very different atmospheres and sense of place. And as I can take out books from, and return to, any of them, think we should make more effort to break away from force of habit (just popping into Rochester or using the ebooks option), and visit more of them, more often.