Do you remember the name of your local Librarian when you were a kid? The person who helped you work your way through different sections of the library, from the toddler ‘Ladybird’ books through to the Enid Blytons, the Roald Dahls, the Dick King Smiths, the Judy Blumes and the Paula Danzigers? Who helped you navigate your way through the non-fiction for your school projects? Who organised holiday activities which got you touching wild animals, writing book reviews and taking out huge piles of books in order to get a sticker at the end of the summer? I remember Gill, the librarian at High Heath Library vividly. I was in awe of someone who worked with books for a living. The library was divided into a child and adult section, and I still recall how special I felt when I crossed the threshold for the first time, turning right instead of left as I went in.
That library closed years ago and it’s always saddened me that pupils from my local primary school will never get the chance to skip down there, two by two and hear a story sat on those tiny chairs, then frantically battle with the rest of the class for the ‘best’ books to take out. That now looks to become the norm as libraries are faced with closure throughout the country. Some councils are considering closing all of their local libraries.
Closer to home where I live in Balsall Heath, the magnificent terracotta library which greets people as they enter the area is covered in scaffolding and has been for several years. Whilst it’s still functioning and providing a fantastic service, particularly for local pupils, the building needs extensive work. Meanwhile, the library up the road in Kings Heath is completely closed to the public.
A few years ago I was commissioned by a dedicated and passionate librarian, Jenny York, to produce a series of films about the work that libraries in Yardley were doing with the local community. Even back then it was important that they could produce evidence of the impact of their work to help secure funding. The result was seven short films about different projects. There is more information on them over on the ‘Libraries’ page.
One of my favourite films is the ‘Yards Ahead’ film. I think it really shows the passion that kids, teachers and librarians have for their community library. I could continue to wax lyrical about the service, but I’ll let the film speak for itself. Enjoy.