The Space

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Stroud Green Library opened in 1901 and is the oldest purpose-built library still in use as a library in Haringey. The site was planned for shops but Councillor Henry Burt managed to prove how a local library would be of benefit for the neighbourhood. 

When I started this project, I was curious about how people interact with space and what awareness they have about the space itself and its function. I was reading George Perec, asking plenty of questions, and learning about his technique when I met Lya Nagado, the artist-in-residence at Stroud Green Library. We agreed it would be a good idea to apply some of my questions to the library space. With the use of photography, personal interviews and poetry inspired by the environment; I hope to explore the role of the library and find out what it reveals about the people who use or come in contact with it.

In a very short time, I’ve come to realise that the library is an important part of this community. All visitors use the library for a number of different reasons. Some use it for reading newspapers – pensioners mostly. Many locals bring children to play or read, students use it to revise, and many others use the computers for job hunting or paying bills. It’s a necessity for all. Parks and open spaces are not ideal when it’s cold. Coffee shops and workspaces require a small purchase and many cannot afford it so they turn up at the library. A safe, free space. Will it last?

The locals I speak to tell me that the services for Haringey libraries are changing but it doesn’t matter to them. They all want to keep using the library. Stroud Green Library is busy and often packed with mums and babies or young children. Members of staff tell me about a new structure that will mean they can no longer have a dedicated team for the children who come into the library. In September 2017 some of these concerns led to a protest outside Wood Green Library.

The staff at Stroud Green have an intimate connection with the community. They chat about things that are personal and professional. While working in the space, I hear people get advice from the front desk about their children, their jobs, as well as book recommendations. The manager tells me about an incident with a partially impaired local who chooses to come to ‘this library, one of the only small, quiet ones left’. The manager stresses that on the one hand, customer service is important and on the other hand, books are essential for everyone but there is a concern that pulling the two different elements together will be a strain.

 

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