Saturday, 17 September 2016

Pedal Power and People Power

Burning hot weather and biblical rain notwithstanding, I am endeavouring to cycle more. The journey planners on We Are Cycling are proving really useful.
I have joined the Bournemouth Libraries, and initially borrowed books from the branch next to the big Castlepoint Shopping Centre. However, I decided I should try and visit some of the branches slightly nearer to home [Ferndown itself is in the Dorset Libraries group] Three weeks ago I rode off to the Kinson Hub, and took out a few books [I did try the Balkan Trilogy, Athene, but couldn't seem to get into it. I'll have another go in the winter evenings]  Yesterday afternoon I returned them to Ensbury Park, which is a little further away. I thought I must be lost, because I kept pedalling down a longish road, with no sign of the Library - so stopped and asked at the Post Office. The kind lady looked at my red face [I was quite out of breath] and said "It's only a bit further, dear, the next corner but one" She was right - but I think that if I'd been in a car, I might have sped past not realising it was the library - it looks like a little corner shop!

That's because it once was a shop - but for many, many years, it has been the smallest library in the borough. 
But what a hidden gem!
I locked my bike to the rack outside, and went in to be greeted by Emma and Elaine, the librarians.
They explained that Friday was always a tea&chat afternoon - and invited me to join the crowd round the table. A fresh pot of tea was fetched, and I was offered custard tarts, and cakes and biscuits.
"We want to make people feel welcome, and encourage the neighbourhood to use the Library." It is incredibly active - children's storytimes, Macmillan Coffee Mornings, Santa visits at Christmas...all sorts of events. And when the Bournemouth Borough Council [BBC!]decided to move the Library into a space half the size at the back of the "Learning Centre" [which is a bit out of the way - unlike this one on the main road] they found they had a fight on their hands.
These good people, led by Geoff ["I have been using Bournemouth libraries for over 60 years" he told me, between sips of tea] formed a campaign group  called EPLUG [Ensbury Park Library Users' Group]

The BBC realised they couldn't pull the plug on EPLUG - and the library survives. Whilst I was there, a Mum came in and mentioned she was trying to decide on a secondary school for her son - the librarian immediately called over another Mum, and introduced her - because her child was at the school under discussion. Paul, sitting next to me, said that the librarians know everyone who comes in, and are always being helpful, putting folk in touch with others who can answer questions and problems. Next weekend the EPLUG volunteers are repainting the interior. It is a real community - and I was treated as a friend straightaway.[apart from one dear soul, who whispered to her friend 'are you sure she isn't a spy from the Council?']
Yes, it is a tiny library - a mere 420 square feet but has a good selection of books. I even found the Wimsey I haven't read yet. There are seats for older folk, stools for children. Yes, it was a bit of a squash [I couldn't check out the cookbooks till the tea time had finished, due to ladies sitting in the corner in front of them] but everyone was so polite. Quite how BBC expected to fit so many readers and bookshelves into 240 sq ft, I have no idea. 
I am really pleased that People Power won a stay of execution on such a valued local amenity. All age groups were there, OAPs, Mums with children fresh from school, teenagers choosing books...This is what public community facilities should be like. 
I borrowed four books
2 fiction, 2 foodie [I will let you know how I get on with them.]

And I pedalled home again, hot and tired, but feeling happy!

Long Live The Free Public Library!


  1. That sounds like a wonderful place!
    My library is one of many on the list for closure ( along with several museums) in Lancashire as budgets have been slashed. I so hope that people power can save it ( we have petitioned but I suspect it will be to no avail). There are activities there every day; bounce and rhyme, story time, games club, book club, craft club, not to mention reading schemes and incentives for the children, family history assistance etc. The staff are helpful and knowledgable and I'll be gutted for them if it closes.

    1. Keep fighting - persistence paid off for this crowd.

  2. That little library sounds wonderfull.
    Like Scarlet, my local library, also a busy little hub, is closing at the end of the month. There have been campaigns to keep it open, was also on the tv, That's Lancashire News, the local MP and councillors have been involved. It has all been ignored but the campaigns continue. I'm not sure persistance will work this time. The council have made up their minds and that's that.

    1. What a shame that we are hearing of so many library closures. It seems a very short sighted policy.

  3. It's good to read about libraries being appreciated. I'm a retired librarian, retiring last year before a round of cuts lost me my job. I do get sad and cynical about the lack of value libraries and librarians are held in, so thanks for this post and enjoy your books!


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