Day 19: Camberwell Library – Libraries are everything #30days30libraries

There’s a queue outside Camberwell library as midday strikes.

Being a Sunday, there are shorter opening hours today and now a crowd has converged around its glass doors.

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Once in, we all quickly disperse to different areas.

A Rastafarian heads straight for a computer, a brother and sister start scanning the stubby-sized bookshelves, a young woman darts upstairs to find a desk space, whilst I begin the annoying process of finding a plug socket.

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A smiling librarian helps me.

Another processes my application form to join the library. She tells me that ‘crispy books’ are what makes this library special.

“We have lovely new books here, crispy books,” she says. “If you want a quieter vibe, head to the Newington. Or the John Harvard has a local studies area. Librarians there can you help you if you want to research something.”

Camberwell library is newly built, having been open only since November. I used to visit the old space on Peckham Road with my Year 1 class when the children’s library was in the basement.

We’d navigate the pavements in a wavering line, teacher, teaching assistant and parent helper steering the children away from the busy roadside, and have a play on the green afterwards. Now the library is based on Camberwell green and I imagine, just for a moment, being a teacher again, but here, now. The kids spilling out onto the play area in the green, after a good ferret through the book boxes.

I’m joined in Camberwell Library by G. R. Gemin, author of the fantastic ‘Cowgirl‘, as well as equally brilliant and newly released ‘Sweet Pizza’. G.R. Gemin is a huge supporter of libraries.

He encourages other authors to host their events in libraries and has led by example, visiting a huge number of libraries in Wales over the last year.

He explained, that in some of the more rural areas he visited, “Libraries are everything. They are books, they are where you go to get benefits advice, they are community centres – a one stop shop.”

He also told me about the ‘Every child a library member’ scheme in Wales, which I had not heard of.

“I would talk with the children and then they would be given a library card, a little bag and straightaway they could go borrow books.”

From where we sit, we can hear the sounds of the children using the children’s library. There’s a shake of a bell to signify a ‘Storytime’ starting and once again I’m transported to being a teacher again, watching my class fall upon the library bookshelves like hungry animals, tumbling headfirst into other worlds.

 

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