Neil Rhind spoke about the history of libraries in Blackheath, and then revealed that he had popped into the Blackheath Standard library recently, because he needed to check something in his book Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 2, but couldn’t find it on the shelf. A library assistant informed him that “it’s always out. It’s the most stolen book from our library, after the bible”. He seemed delighted by this!
Here’s an extract from the reading by Blake Morrison, from his book The Justification of Johann Gutenberg
One day in the forest, when he was feeding the birds, he says, “it was as if the dove that perched [on my hand] spreading its wings had become an open book. And the dove departing from me was like a book taking flight. And the grain the dove held in its beak was like a kernel of knowledge seeding itself through the world.”
A very pertinent passage, as the grain is about to be snatched from the beaks of future generations.
Both Blake Morrison and Nicholas Cranfield (the vicar from All Saints Church) emphasised the community aspects of the library. Blake Morrison described what he called “bibliotherapy” – the act of reading with others, as something of great value. He emphasised that when politicians define the needs for cuts across services, they often draw a choice between front-line healthcare services, or library services. He spoke very well about his experiences, and said that library services often actively reduce the need for healthcare, by nurturing people’s minds, reducing their reliance on other services. I guess this sort of symbiotic relationship is hard to prove on a balance sheet, but it certainly chimes with my gut feeling of how a library benefits society. Nicholas Cranfield spoke of libraries as a “civilising force”.
On the downside, there wasn’t enough space for the protest inside the library- they should have held it outside with a PA (maybe they could have borrowed the mic from the crazy morris minor sound-system, or moved the bookshelves to make space for the protestors – the shelves were on wheels, so why not make some space?!
All in all, it was an uplifting experience. I’m just not sure that Lewisham Council was paying attention.
(Photo credit: Mrs Bugle, deep undercover…)