Tuesday 12 September 2017

A Visit to the Library

Yesterday my researches took me to my borough's 'award-winning' central library. It was, as ever, a bewildering experience: what had once been an easy to understand, easy to use library, with plenty of books arranged along conventional lines, is now a bizarre assemblage of largely unpeopled and unstaffed open spaces with gimmicky names - Page One, Media Too - and precious few books in evidence. Only on the upper levels of the building do things begin to get a little more recognisable - the children's library is little changed, and on the next level up is something that resembles the library as it was, complete with a (now apparently unstaffed) reference library. But even here there are large mysterious cubes bearing the names of primary colours and painted accordingly - are they intended as some kind of easy-to-understand classification system? If so, without an explanation of what the colours signify, they do not get us very far. Happily, on the shelves, the familiar Dewey decimal system still reigns supreme. And, happily, the library still has a handsome set of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which was the object of my quest.
 Whenever I am in this library building, I take a look at a display case on one of the landings, which contains an open copy of the borough's printed Book of Remembrance. This lists the names and addresses of civilians killed by bombing during the Hitler war, their ages, and when and where they died. This chronicle of loss - often of entire families to one bomb - makes sad and sobering reading, and offers a salutary perspective on our present times. It seems almost inconceivable that, in living memory, ordinary people in a borough some miles from the centre of London went about their lives under relentless bombardment from the skies, knowing that each night could be their last. Against that, the perceived threats and dangers of our present world seem small beer indeed, and the self-obsessed psychobabble,  offence-seeking, virtue-signalling and grievance-mongering of our times look like the behaviour of thin-skinned moral infants who have never had real jeopardy and real calamity to deal with.


  1. I resent therefore I am and ceasing to resent means my disappearing in a puff of smoke.

  2. My one-time local library (Dulwich)transmogrified a few years back into a giant CD and talking-book centre - the reference and kiddies section remaining, mercifully, unchanged. But just like the bad investor, getting into pork bellies when the clever money was getting out, they (Southwark) were making the changes at the very moment when downloads were beginning to capture the imagination and take over from the little silver discs. Vinyl would have been a better bet methinks?

  3. Ah yes - my old workplace. I barely knew it when I last went back...