The poem, Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East, by Bernard Kops, described how this library gave him - as a drifting East End street urchin during the early years of the blitz - everything he needed to get going as a writer and to become the great playwright and poet we know today.
It includes these lines:
Plenty of other great poems were read out by people both inside and outside the occupied Herne Hill
Ted Hughe's late poem, Hear It Again, is another amazing work. Hughes had no doubt that libraries were not merely important, but a crucial factor in the development of civilisation.
He pulls no punches. In the first verse, he announces that the destruction of the library in Alexandria 14 centuries back "brain-damaged the human race".
Then these terribly prophetic lines, later in the poem:
And it's plain
Decay of libraries is like
Alzheimer's in the nation's brain..
The traffic on Herne Hill Road at that time was busy. But whether coming up from Loughborough Junction or down from the leafy heights of Herne Hill, almost every vehicle slowed down and beeped its support for the occupiers.
In fact, I counted twenty, in the space of about 3 minutes, and 17 of them beeped. They even made it difficult for some of the poetry readers to make themselves heard!
And it was not just private cars. The biggest beeps came from white vans, trucks laden with building debris and scaffolding, taxi cabs, scooters, minibuses, oh yes and Range Rovers and the occasional Audi. Even the police car that had been parked round the corner gave a little peep as it drove off, and then a couple of growls from its siren.
There's no doubt whatsoever how deeply loved this library is. Nor how much respect there is for the people who are doing their best to save it from this strange Lambeth Council plan to instal some sort of gymnasium.
|Attached to the locked metal gates outside the Carnegie Library, |
Herne Hill, here's a message those wishing to gut this building need to
I've read stuff from Labour councillors saying we shouldn't worry, that the library will re-open with the same books, etc etc. Well, I wonder about that.
The real, absolute killer in the Lambeth plan, which they freely admit, is that there will be no trained, paid library staff in the new "healthy living centre". So however many books they have there - and you do wonder who will be looking after them, replenishing stock, etc - there won't be anyone there to help you with informed, expert advice on where to look, or what to try.
And, while Bernard Kops' beloved Whitechapel Library has now closed (it is now part of the art gallery), at least that council (Tower Hamlets) provided a proper library building to replace it, staffed with real, paid librarians.