Hendon Library

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Hendon Library is one of 14 libraries in the London Borough of Barnet. None of their libraries are designated as a central library but as the local studies library is in the same building I picked Hendon to be the representative of the borough. Despite a campaign in 2015, the Barnet library service has suffered cuts in the recession. Since 2017 all of Barnet’s libraries either have days when they are completely closed or have days when they are not staffed but are available for self-service. For example, Hendon Library isn’t staffed at all on Mondays but is open to residents from 8am to 8pm.

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Library users have to scan their library card and enter their library service PIN number to enter the building.

Hendon Library itself was a bit uninspiring. The large, detached, proud-looking building is nice but on entry it becomes apparent that the whole top floor has been given over to Middlesex University (which is next door) so the public library only has the ground floor. There are two separate doors: one for the public library and one for Middlesex University’s Learning Support Zone.

However, presumably the deal with the University is keeping this branch library open so I’ll stop complaining.

Once you enter through the public library door there is an enquiry point in the middle and then book stock and reading areas on the left and right. There is a glass study room and a very small children’s area.

There were details on the wall about making appointments with the local studies service which is accessible at the back of the building.

Most interestingly, I saw a picture on the wall of Eileen Colwell with the caption that she was a librarian at the library for over 40 years and a founder of children’s librarianship.

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Her obituary in the the Telegraph is most enlightening and begins with:

In the 1920s, when Eileen Colwell first became a librarian, there were no children’s sections in libraries, and the presence of children, especially young children, was discouraged. She considered it of vital importance that children should have access to books from an early age, and that their first introduction to literature should be a pleasant one.

I have purchased her autobiography and added it to my “to-be-read” pile. I’m sure most people reading this have such a pile at home!

Canada Water Library

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I have been looking forward to visiting this library, as I had seen pictures of it in other publications, looking new and interesting, with a pool of shimmering water beside of it.

As I have a tendency to do – I walked out of the tube station and charged off round the water only to realise the stairs to the underground were next to the library’s entrance  and I was walking the wrong way.

Once I had turned around and gone back I entered through the café which was brimming with people on this cold Monday lunchtime. Adjacent to the café is the ground floor area with an enquiry point, some self-service terminals, some “Quick Choice” books and a security guard.

I immediately saw the central wooden curved stairwell that looked very warm and inviting so up I went. The next level up had a really colourful block carpet which brought the place to life. There was plenty of book-stock, windows, staff, computers and readers.

The next floor up was a mezzanine of study positions around the stairwell/atrium. Most seats were occupied including some by older kids in school uniform. There were chairs with the built-in note-taking arm which were positioned in the windows. There were plenty of meeting rooms on the sides of the library, of various sizes. Several were in use and they must be a really handy facility for the community.

The library’s opening hours are good – opening until 8pm every weekday and opening on Saturdays and Sundays. The theatre is in the same building too.

The whole library was bathed in light but also full of nooks and crannies for people to settle in and study. The children’s library had several children in it, so I couldn’t take pictures, but I was able to take a picture of their boat.

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Southwark Libraries don’t designate a central library and Canada Water may not be their largest, but it was well worth the visit! Here’s an interesting article in the Guardian from when it opened in 2011.

Luton Central Library

Luton Central Library is based in a large building with the theatre. Although it is quite an attractive building from a distance, the ground floor approach feels like a boarded up building because of the posters on a black background.

Inside there is a quick choice section downstairs and then the main library is on the first floor with a mezzanine second floor.

The library was not as full as other central libraries on a Saturday although the study tables were all occupied on the higher level.

Luton Central Library still has very good opening hours, open until 7 Monday to Thursday and until 5 Friday, Saturday and even Sunday.