Today I visited the Clapham Library, one of half a dozen or so libraries in my borough, Lambeth. The building was built around 8 years ago with health services on the ground level and social housing above.
It’s design reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum with it’s sweeping curved runways that hug the walls and bookshelves leaving a large central atrium in the middle. It’s quite a bold design for a library. The books play second fiddle to the space and melt into its walls.
At the bottom and in the centre of the atrium are the young children’s books, soft areas for lounging and reading complete with stage for performances.
A surprisingly quiet hum of kids playing and reading droned below.
As I walked around the first sweeping ramp to a second floor mezzanine, I noticed doorways leading into study areas for adults, one expressly for “teenagers” and others where you could book computers or photocopiers.
Other, more open areas with desks or couches revealed themselves where people studied or gathered over conversation. Another person, hunkered themselves down in a cranny near a fire exit, comfortable in the space and their own quiet.
Libraries have been under threat here in London and the UK over the past years. I would hate to see my library disappear.
A big part of my family life has been taking my two children from a young age to our local library to pour over books, read, learn, meet, observe, converse. And the end take those experiences and artefacts home to explore further.
As a young boy growing up in Adelaide, I was introduced to new music through my libraries cassette collection. Music that expanded my appreciation for local environment and that of the world beyond.
Libraries are great homes to discovery, learning and sharing. Not just words, music, images and ideas, but of the richness of people and culture. Local and global. And for a long time.
In my time living in West Norwood I have gotten to know my library and it’s librarians. Like Clapham and Streatham too, it is a hub and social network for a community and I long for our neighbourhood to have the library it deserves.
A place for people to come together to learn and share.