Brixton Central Library was the first Tate free library that I have visited – it makes a change from all the Carnegies. If you haven’t heard of Henry Tate he is the man who endowed the original Tate Gallery in London and whose sugar company became Tate & Lyle.
Brixton Library is the central library for the London Borough of Lambeth. I have an affection for this library as my father worked here in his early twenties (where he first used a photocopier) and the library is always in the press being supported by its community so I was looking forward to visiting.
I was a little disappointed by the entrance but a sign explained that the door hinges were over a hundred years old and had to be sent off for repair and that these were temporary doors – fair enough. The library is now over 120 years old (built in 1893) and, if you have time, take a look at the excellent old postcards and photos on the BrixtonBuzz website showing how the Library and the Tate Gardens have changed over the years.
Inside, the library feels very modern, with some older features still retained – like the spiral staircase in the corner. I am only just realising now that I look at the photos that most of the libraries I have visited have carpet or industrial flooring and yet Brixton has wood (or wood effect) which made the space feel warm in a homey sense.
I was captivated by the glow on top of the DVD cabinets. I don’t know why – maybe I was a moth in a former life. I couldn’t see where they plugged in and I wondered if the staff go home and kick themselves that they forgot to turn them off.
I wasn’t sure whether upstairs was also open to the public but as I saw a few people go up – I also ventured upstairs. The reference and study areas were upstairs and very busy with most desks filled (it was a Monday afternoon in April). There was even a queue at the enquiry desk.
I really like the signs on the wall that look like street signs and the modern study pod was cool.
The library is a short walk from the tube station and on the way you pass Electric Avenue. I spent the rest of the day with Eddie Grant’s song in my head and researched the street’s history.