Oh dear. It’s over a week since the amazing afternoon at York Gardens Library and I’ve been so busy talking about books that I haven’t got round to sharing what happened. Bad local writer! Anyway, well over 100 of us got together to try and save a very important library, and here are some of the highlights.
Other reader/performers included Sam West, Polly Toynbee, Rebecca Elliot, Tim Ten Yen and the very entertaining Nikesh Shukla, who did his beatbox impression for us.
Lucy, a local mother, summed it up for everyone. Of the 10 Wandsworth libraries, the reason this one has been proposed for closure is that it has the lowest rate of adult loans. Lucy, who lives on the local housing estate, said she was typical: she’s taken out 3 books in the last 2 years. This is because she’s been busy working and giving birth to her son. She’s taken out over 100 books in his name, meanwhile.
That’s the thing about York Gardens. It serves the most deprived community of any Wandsworth library: children who need (and use) the space for homework, because they don’t have it at home; the very elderly who need (and use) the facilities for meeting up and playing bridge together; mums and dads looking for work who need (and use) the internet facilities to try and find jobs. On practically every measure except adult loans, York Gardens scores more highly than any other library.
My library (Northcote – the one I blogged about recently and where I wrote Threads) is in a wealthy area and if we didn’t have it we’d be OK. We’re up to catching a bus to the next library along. Nine year-olds on the York Gardens estate who need to do their homework in the evenings aren’t.
But encouragingly, some of the local councillors who voted in favour of the proposal to close York Gardens were there to listen to over 100 of us imploring them not to. And encouragingly, they were treated well by the people who profoundly disagree with them. It’s called civilization. You get it from having things like libraries in deprived areas.
The next day, at a coffee morning in a very posh bit of Wandsworth, I was told by a local mummy that a man on a contract from the council had offered – practically begged – to clean her dustbins for her that day. His boss needed him to clean every bin on the road.
Why on earth? Maybe the good thing about the Save Our Libraries campaign, and others like it, is that it’s making us more aware of the decisions our elected councillors make in our name. Clean bins or save libraries? Next time we’ll vote more carefully, and protest more loudly.
Meanwhile, I met a lot of wonderful people at York Gardens. We shared tea and biscuits and a sense of solidarity. It wasn’t exactly Tahrir Square in Cairo, but it was about as close as you get in Wandsworth. Let’s hope we’re as successful.