Having visited all of the public libraries in the Medway towns, I’m casting my ‘local’ net further and aiming to visit all of those in Kent too. And after a busy year working on issues that affect ALL public libraries, and being lucky enough to visit some of the city centre ‘stars’ of the library world, its good to be reminded about what some of our smaller but no less varied and welcoming local libraries offer.

Kent has 99 public libraries, so its going to take me a while, but today I added 5 to my total: Allington, Larkfield, West Malling, Vigo, Meopham (ending up in Longfield, but that was a revisit…..) . All bar one were open and busy, and in contrast to my last mini tour, when I saw library buildings of all ages, most were of a similar style.

Allington library

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On the outskirts of Maidstone, this library is opposite a Waitrose, and next to large playing fields. It was probably the busiest and noisiest I visited, as a large group was having a christmas party. Lots of notices showing the usual offerings – plus a knitting group is due to start in the new year (perhaps inspired by the efforts of the Woolly Maids in decorating the High Street in Maidstone?)

Larkfield library

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Another library close to a school and a parade of shops – there was lots of free parking near to this one. Inside was bright and cheerful, with a family choosing books in the childrens section, which was decorated with lots of artwork from local primary schools.

West Malling library

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I always enjoy walking along West Malling High Street – so many beautiful old buildings. The library is on a narrow part, and parking is a bit of a lottery, but once inside it was buzzing. The only library where staff made eye contact and said hello, but they were busy scratching their heads making recommendations to a family in the children’s section – to 2 children who I think had read a large chunk of stock already!

Oh yes, and this team get top marks for their christmassy windows:

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Vigo village library

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The only one out of the 6 visited today which wasn’t open. Vigo library is in a building shared with the village hall and a church. It is only open 10 hours a week, but they have an arrangement with the pharmacy opposite, so people can order, collect and return books there when the library isn’t open.

Meopham library 

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Last new (to me) library was Meopham – and this was also the hardest to find. Meopham is a long village which sprawls along the A227, and the postcode directed me to a part where all I could see was a pub, church and garage. Luckily the people in the pub directed me – and the library shares a campus with Meopham school – plus a leisure centre and health centre. All fine, but the only signs from the main road mention everything but the library, and even when you get close, you could be forgiven for thinking it is just the school’s own library – until you see the familiar shape of Invicta (the white horse of Kent) and the red signs of the public library service. However there is one final step – I went 3 sides of the building before realising that the entrance is the one headed “Meopham School”.

Inside was busy though – as in all the others, computers in use, families in the children’s section, and people browsing the shelves.

Last stop was a re-visit to the tiny Longfield library – completing my mini-tour. A standalone brick building with lovely arched windows, possibly the oldest of the group I saw today.

So, that’s around 20 of Kent’s libraries seen – plenty more local exploring to be done.