Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A Visit to York Gardens Library - this library must not be forced to close

Having heard news of the possible closure of York Gardens Library in the Wandsworth borough of London, I made a special trip to visit when normally I would access Southfields library, 3 miles away.

I immediately warmed to York Gardens Library. Set in a large estate of towerblocks, I can see how vital an asset it must be to the surrounding large community. Looking at the various events, info, and things on offer, it's clear that there's so much more than a mere book-lending facility here. Reading groups of all ages, activities for children, craft activities for young people, even an old memories of Battersea group.

What's more, the library itself is inside a community building with a community centre that offers much to the local residents.

The library offers an incredibly impressive range of items on loan for such a compact space, and is laid out in such a way that it's heartwarming - I feel immediately positive of mood, after what had today been an upsetting morning; because it's simply such a good place to be; good for the mental health.

People think of London as being this big centre, when really there are countless little communities just as cut-off as anywhere smaller. And London does have its tiny communities. York Gardens is beset by what must be council or ex-council (hard to know these days, since it's all changed with the right-to-buy) tower block flats. So gloomy and grey and 60s - 80s era. There are pockets of poverty in all bits of London - and places where activity or centralised amenities are hard to come by. Somewhere like York Gardens needs a community centre/library to lend children a free place to go - to learn, to think. Likewise, with the elderly, probably many of them life-long residents, proud of their locale - there is a "Memories of Battersea" group for them; imagine the socialising and the simple solace and pleasure, not to mention lifeline, that would provide. The elderly are so often cut-off and if I have learnt one thing about libraries it is that the elderly benefit from them the most.

A leaflet on the table of the library revealed all sorts of craft activities for various ages, and there were sing-songs for little toddlers, reading groups for all ages. On walking in the building, there was a sale of books fiction and non-fiction for 50 pence or so.

The range of stock was incredibly impressive for such a compact space. The non-ficiton topics, the DVDs, the foreign literature, the access to local information - and people forget this, just how vital libraries are in providing info on all kinds of local info, be it related to further education, benefits, leisure centres and other amenities in the area, local writing competitions, even the sale of local postcards and local history books. The provision is palpable.

I will make the lengthy journey every week to use this library and make it my regular library. A former Wandsworth resident, I now live in Merton.

The series of public consultation meetings in relation to the closure of York Gardens library as well as the proposal of reduction in hours of every library in the borough of Wandsworth have begun, and will roll into January. Consultation meetings about the future of Wandsworth Borough Libraries. The final meeting at York Gardens will be January 10th.

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