Tag Archives: reading

Books as doves

Blackheath Village Library Read-In Protest

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…)

4 Comments

Filed under blackheath, blackheath village, books, politics

The Reluctant Library

Lucy Mangan of the Grauniad TV reviews will be reading from her book The Reluctant Bride in a shameless bid to save Blackheath Library at 2pm on Saturday. What’s that you say? Maybe it is her favourite book! Why shouldn’t her favourite book be one that she wrote herself, for goodness sake? The trouble with you people is that you are far too cynical.

On another note, Sir Ian Mills of Age Exchange wrote me a very valid email, pointing out that whilst my post “Pay a tenner to find out what will happen to your library” was factually correct, it was also extremely bad tempered. He has a point. I had a hangover. On a school night. Sorry. If you want to look at Age Exchange’s plans for the library, they are on display inside their shop. You should go regardless, it’s a great place.

Nonetheless, some of the comments below the post raise some interesting questions:

  • This seems to me to be the most significant issue: If Age Exchange hadn’t stepped in to offer the council this alternative, wouldn’t there have been more pressure on Lewisham council not to close the library? Isn’t this just giving them an easy get-out?
  • Is this a way for Age Exchange to expand its profile, maintain its funding, and by merging itself with the library, ensure that it cannot be easily removed from the high street? The first role of any organisation is to maintain its own existence, even if it is a charity.
  • Why should local library-goers be encouraged to donate £30 per year to maintain a library service that up until this year was provided by the local council?
  • Darryl claims that Greenwich Council has decided to cease funding for Age Exchange. Does Greenwich Council contribute funds to Age Exchange? (I couldn’t see any mention of them on their funding page).
  • The current library is funded by Lewisham council, but Age Exchange is in the Greenwich Council part of Blackheath. How will this issue be resolved?

I’ve written before about how much I like the Age Exchange Centre.  It’s great.  But by offering Mayor Bullock a Big-Society-friendly way to downgrade the status of the current library, it may have done more harm than good.  Maybe lobbying the current owners of the existing library building to reduce or forgo the rent could have been a better strategy, which is now unavailable to the BVLUG, as the anti-closure lobby is effectively split between two positions.

9 Comments

Filed under blackheath, books, charities, politics

Book clubs in Blackheath

Book Club at Blackheath Village Library
Clare emailed a while back, asking if there were any reading groups in Blackheath. I knew that there was one based at the library, but couldn’t remember the details. As I went to renew a book a few days ago, sure enough on the counter was all the information that you would need –

First edition of Brideshead Revisited, from wikipediaThere’s a book club held at the library on the first Thursday of each month, between 6.30pm-7.30pm. Last month they were reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

This contradicts what is written on Greenwich council’s page about reading groups – they claim that it is held at 7pm on the occasional Monday. Lewisham’s effort mentions a reading group, but doesn’t say when it is… At least it doesn’t send you there on the wrong day!

So, if you do go along, please let me know how it is, how many people are there, and whether the first Thursday of the month is the right date!

12 Comments

Filed under blackheath, books