Shortly after Lambeth Council shut Carnegie Library and before I became a trustee with the Carnegie Library Association, I felt such utter helplessness in the face of a government body and its relentless disregard for what local residents actually want and need. Yes, I’d supported The Occupation. Yes, I’d gone on the marches. Yes, I’d inundated my Twitter feed with anything and everything to do with loving my library. But I didn’t feel it was enough.
As a tutor with Ruskin Readers I was in the midst of the plight faced by community groups ousted from Carnegie Library. While I tried to assist our lead tutor Caroline Knapp as she emailed and made Facebook appeals for us to secure a suitable venue, I quietly seethed within.
I wanted to do SOMETHING.
Then I got a notification email from my Google Calendar to renew my library books. I made a sudden resolution.
I would not return any of the library books I currently had in my possession unless I was returning them to a reopened Carnegie Library. And so began my very silent, very private protest.
My work schedule leaves me little time to visit a library. Having the Carnegie almost on my doorstep was a boon. It meant that after work on a Monday I still had time to have supper before heading over for my tutoring session at Ruskin Readers. As well as this, it meant I could return books and order or loan new ones before spending time with my Ruskin Readers’ student. I could use the library resources to plan my lessons and organise resources. And whatever strange new idea I had for teaching my student, the wonderful library staff were always on hand to advise and assist.
Now that Carnegie Library is shut my closest Lambeth libraries are Brixton, West Norwood and Streatham. None of these are conveniently placed enroute to and from work. And when I have managed to find the time to get down to Brixton it’s been so crowded I’ve just turned tail and run next door to the calm of the café of the Black Cultural Archives instead.
The opening times of West Norwood library just happen to be such that they do not accommodate my restricted schedule. Then there’s my perverse reluctance to enter a library which is not Carnegie. I simply feel disloyal, foolish as that may sound.
So I resolved to maintain my private protest and find books in other ways. Remarkably, without anyone being aware I’d made my silent vow, I suddenly began receiving a load of books from people.
It all began when I informed some of my students I’d embarked on a 100 book reading challenge for 2016. They began to thrust copies of their favourite books at me and urged me to read them.
I also did book swaps with another person who’d begun his own silent – no return – protest. Before I knew what was happening, I had a stack of books to read and hadn’t bought a single one nor had I violated my sense of loyalty to Carnegie Library.
Now I simply renew my loans online and set myself a reminder on my Google Calendar to renew again. This is a tiny and insignificant thing in the whole scheme of things, but it gives me an immense sense of satisfaction none-the-less.
The 11 books I currently have out on loan are due to be renewed on 20th January. I’ve set my reminder. My very silent, no longer so very private protest continues.