Destitute Library Goes Al Fresco

M@
By M@ Last edited 115 months ago
Destitute Library Goes Al Fresco
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Book-lovers will be checking out a unique new venue on Saturday [2 Feb]: St James Street Open-Air Library in Walthamstow. No payment, no tickets – just bring as many books as you like, and swap them. Fab, but Brrrrrr.

Its hours are brief; from 1-3pm the first Saturday of the month. And its book stock is the few hundred its organisers have rounded up from supporters – plus whatever anyone brings. But it’s handily situated just off Walthamstow’s mile-long High Street market. There’s even a bench to browse on, and plenty of cafes if it starts to rain.

It all started when Waltham Forest closed St James Street Library, a popular little centre in a multicultural area with lots of children but not much money. Locals petitioned the council, unsuccessfully, to reopen one of their only community facilities. When the building — in Coppermill Lane E17 — started looking bleak, they decorated its windows. Kids came along to draw pictures, and a book swap started up. That proved so popular that they’re now making it a regular event.

“Come and get a bargain,” say the campaigners in true East London style. They’re hoping to get their library reopened, but meanwhile they’re doing it for themselves, and anyone else who cares to join in.

Waltham Forest council is a tough nut to crack. Campaigners recently discovered that nearly a quarter of a million books had gone missing from the borough’s libraries in the past few years — some of them to Edmonton incinerator. The council first denied this, then admitted the books hadn’t been counted for years so they didn’t really know how many had gone. And its killer defence against the book-burning charge? That books were pulped for recycling, not burnt.

A £10-million makeover programme has left the borough’s surviving libraries with a fraction of the shelf space they had before. That means little to browse, and a 60p fee for each book ordered in. Meanwhile thousands of books are in long-term storage. Campaigners are hoping that the spotlight will at least prevent any more trips to Edmonton.

In fact, there’s a good home on offer to all those long-unseen books, outside St James Street Library, every first Saturday of the month…

By Mehitabel

Image of St James Street Library fun day in December courtesy of David Hall.

Last Updated 31 January 2008

HAL9000

Go to this little outpost of a few concerned people desperate to hang on to a little bit of culture despite a Philistine council. The last library fun day was cold and wet, but loads of adults and children turned up, had fun, did drawings and went away happy. Bring a book to swap! Keep the library going by other means...

BookFan

What is the purpose of libraries having books in boxes when readers need them on the shelves? To improve the condition of libraries through the "refurbishment program", in fact the reverse is happening to those libraries like Hale End & Central Library - they are "clinically clean"! Do we want a "People's Library" or a "Gallery" type of library? A library is meant for people including children. A display of their work on the display board will encourage them in their creativity & other skills.

Why should a mother be appalled to see children's work being displayed on the wall and considered it a mess? This shows how out of touch the council is with the people. Is consultation carried out as to what the people want? There is nothing wrong to have children's work being displayed on the board.

Be real - give us a library not a gallery. We will have William Morris any time!

Bookworm

SUPPORT JAMES STREET OPEN AIR LIBRARY!

YOU ARE HELPING TO PROTECT YOUR OWN!!

Have you not noticed? Millions of pounds have been spent refurbishing Waltham Forest Libraries?!!

Whilst this has been happening, the jobs of your qualified librarians have been under attack. They, like ALL of the STAFF at the William Morris Gallery & MOST of the STAFF at The Vestry House Museum & Archives, are losing their jobs & being downgraded. Their job descriptions are changing & soon you may no longer recognise their roles. Their salaries have been taken whilst a new, major controlling appointment, has been created & then highly upgraded.

Councillors have awarded themselves huge pay rises whilst cutting costs elsewhere.

A better-paid councillor is supposed to mean a better councillor!! This so called fact is not supposed to work for council employees?? Funny that!

Now... whilst all this has been going on, rather than being made secure by the millions spent on them, your libraries have had their shelves ripped out, making them multi-purpose buildings. How easy it would be to strip them & recycle the buildings, (more wedding venues?), or pull them down! Their stocks have been dramatically depleted & we are told that pulping is not burning-so!!! Pulping is the democratic way of burning?? Who cares how the books have gone? They are gone. Vaporised, dissolved, whatever? They can never be got back again, never read by anyone again. Does the greener way, in this instance, make it more acceptable? The greener way by far, would have been to retain them, or in some cases-chosen through the selection of our trained librarians-sold to the readers.

Oh dear, does this sound like something that used to happen when I worked in the borough's libraries, 36 years ago? So what, it worked! In those days librarians would choose their own library stock whilst using their experience & training to consider their reader's needs & those of the wider public.

SUPPORT JAMES STREET OPEN AIR LIBRARY!

YOU ARE HELPING TO PROTECT YOUR OWN!!

Bookworm

SUPPORT JAMES STREET OPEN AIR LIBRARY!

YOU ARE HELPING TO PROTECT YOUR OWN!!

Have you not noticed? Millions of pounds have been spent refurbishing Waltham Forest Libraries?!!

Whilst this has been happening, the jobs of your qualified librarians have been under attack. They, like ALL of the STAFF at the William Morris Gallery & MOST of the STAFF at The Vestry House Museum & Archives, are losing their jobs & being downgraded. Their job descriptions are changing & soon you may no longer recognise their roles. Their salaries have been taken whilst a new, major controlling appointment, has been created & then highly upgraded.

Councillors have awarded themselves huge pay rises whilst cutting costs elsewhere.

A better-paid councillor is supposed to mean a better councillor!! This so called fact is not supposed to work for council employees?? Funny that!

Now... whilst all this has been going on, rather than being made secure by the millions spent on them, your libraries have had their shelves ripped out, making them multi-purpose buildings. How easy it would be to strip them & recycle the buildings, (more wedding venues?), or pull them down! Their stocks have been dramatically depleted & we are told that pulping is not burning-so!!! Pulping is the democratic way of burning?? Who cares how the books have gone? They are gone. Vaporised, dissolved, whatever? They can never be got back again, never read by anyone again. Does the greener way, in this instance, make it more acceptable? The greener way by far, would have been to retain them, or in some cases-chosen through the selection of our trained librarians-sold to the readers.

Oh dear, does this sound like something that used to happen when I worked in the borough's libraries, 36 years ago? So what, it worked! In those days librarians would choose their own library stock whilst using their experience & training to consider their reader's needs & those of the wider public.

SUPPORT JAMES STREET OPEN AIR LIBRARY!

YOU ARE HELPING TO PROTECT YOUR OWN!!

BookFan

What is the council doing to support the Year of Reading - 2008? Keeping books in boxes, pulping them or removing them just because they feel that they are not being used by readers - that's their program so far in support of it.

Let the people be aware that reading promotes learning from a young age. The government is encouraging literacy among youngsters. But WF council does not seem to be doing their part. Why shut down a local library within easy access of at least 6 primary schools and 3 nurseries? This is just madness!

Councillors - do reconsider your decision. People make mistakes and sure the residents will accept your apology provided actions go with it. We are still waiting for your reply.

BookFan

What is the council doing to support the National Year of Reading - 2008? Keeping books in boxes, pulping them or removing them just because they feel that they are not being used by readers - that's their program so far in support of it.

Let the people be aware that reading promotes learning from a young age. The government is encouraging literacy among youngsters. But WF council does not seem to be doing their part. Why shut down a local library within easy access of at least 6 primary schools and 3 nurseries? This is just madness!

Councillors - do reconsider your decision. People make mistakes and sure the residents will accept your apology provided actions go with it. We are still waiting for your reply.

Fidelity

Why do councils spend millions on trying to make libraries look like Ideal Homes interiors? That's not what people go into libraries for. It's all style over substance. And from what I've seen of these madeover libraries, they don't even look good - just empty.

Library Defenders

Waltham Forest council got its first Valentines last weekend, from St James Street Open-Air Library.

Readers decorated the closed-down library's windows with Valentines hearts showing the names of those they loved: friends or relatives, authors or books. Some simply named St James Street Library itself.

One was even addressed to council leader Clyde Loakes, offering undying affection if he would reopen the library. "We love this library, and we're hoping the council will reopen it now that they can see how much people miss it," said one supporter.

That's a bit hopeful, given the council's tough stance on funding for services (though not on the inflation-busting £230,000 pay rise for councillors last year). But who knows? Elections are due in 2010, and the council is getting very unpopular.

St James Street Library Campaign runs the open-air library event on the first Saturday afternoon of every month. The next one will be on 3 March. All are welcome to come and swap books, listen to live music or join in the monthly redecoration of the library windows. See you there!

Library Defenders

SATURDAY 1 MARCH, NEXT OPEN-AIR LIBRARY
OK, we're more likely to see you there if we get the date right: it's Saturday 1 March, from 1pm. And every first Saturday after that. Everyone's welcome. Check out stjamesstlibrary.wordpress.com for updates.

And has anyone got large-print books or audio books, either tapes or CDs? The closure of the library has been especially hard on old people and parents with small children. We have a good selection of children's books, though more are always welcome - but there's very little so far for people whose eyesight is fading.