Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published November 24th 2013
Not Just for Book People
A short while ago I published a book of poetry and was interested in seeing if my local library would be interested in stocking it. The receptionist at the help desk said that she would be able to email me some information in an upcoming newsletter if I was a member. I said that I was, but that my card was so old, I had no idea if it was still valid.
Although I have popped into the library occasionally over the past year, it has only ever been to peek inside the art gallery. I have never actually used any of the library services, and certainly never taken out a book. Not since I was a child anyway. My card is so old that it has my parent's signature on it rather than my own.
As I expected, my card had been removed from the database. Since I had not actually lost my card, it had just expired, the receptionist said that I could re-reigster for free, and then continue to use the same card. Joining was a simple process done one of their computers. She logged me on, and I filled all my details onto an electronic form. By the end of the process, the system gave me a temporary e-code that I could use for online services. If you register from home, then you have nineteen days to visit the library, give them your code, and get issued with a permanent card.
After re-registering, I decided to take a look around the library. First I went upstairs to the gallery, Where the Merton Art Society were holding an exhibition. It appeared very popular as there were lots of visitors. The library frequently holds art exhibitions by local artists who are renting out the space. For example, the exhibit will feature the work of Jo Clavier between the 3rd-7th December. What is nice about these intimate exhibits is that the artist is present in the room to chat with, so you can learn more about them. Clavier is an landscape artist who works with acrylics, pastels, and watercolour; this will be her first London exhibition.
The gallery can be rented out for far more than just art exhibits though. Anyone can hire the space for a purpose of their choosing. For example, they hold tai chi classes, jewellery workshops, and a chess club.
When you enter the library, you see a wide open space with bookcases on either side, and central stands highlighting particular books. For example, Doctor Who and Christmas books are in the limelight at the moment. There are several self-service checkouts available, as well as a place to deposit books that you are returning. This is oh so different from the last time I ever took a book from the library, where you had to queue up at the desk and have everything scanned through. This is still an option if you prefer, but the enquiries desk is now hidden away in the corner rather than being in the centre of the floor.
As well as being able to borrow up to twenty books for three weeks, you can also rent up to four CDs, audio books, or language courses for £1.50. DVDs can be rented for two nights and cost between 50p-£2.50.
For those of you who like it old school, I was surprised to find that library not only stocks videos, but tape cassettes as well. I still have a cassette player at home, and I'm sure many others do too, so it is not a lost format completely.
Wimbledon Library is divided into organised sections, including a separate room where there is access to computers and free wifi, which can be accessed on your laptop for an unlimited time.
Just outside this room is the young adult section, where they stock regular novels and manga. Opposite, you will find the children's section, which is made more secluded by a large billboard. This allows parents to read to young children without disturbing others, and lets kids wander about freely. A lot of the picture books are put in magazine racks, so toddlers can dig through them by themselves.
Do you recognise these sites?
Leaflets, post-its, and wanted ads are dotted around the library. There is also one billboard that has photographs of areas of local interest. They make it more fun by turning it into an interactive game, where you have to guess, where/what each place is.
Up the ramp, you enter the study area, where you will find educational texts. One of the newest features Wimbledon Library offers is the ability to borrow e-books. There are over nine thousand titles to choose from, and are compatible with most e-readers. You can borrow up to five e-books for three weeks, and there are no late fines because they automatically get taken off your system after the deadline.
If you are in or visiting another area, it is useful to know that Merton Libraries has joined the London Libraries Consortium, meaning if you are a member of Wimbledon Library, and visit one of the other libraries in the group, you can use the same card and not have to register to several different libraries. Saves filling up your wallet with lots of library cards.