In 1942, The Ministry of Labour called on councils to attempt to persuade the public to have what we would now call a ‘staycation’. You can read more about library activities in July to September 1942 in ‘Marylebone Library does its bit‘.
In 2015, we did it again! On Friday 17 July and Saturday 18 July, Marylebone Library was out in Paddington Street Gardens with the original cupboard, staff in full period dress, hats, books, memorabilia, flyers and registration forms aplenty. Registrations were made, books were issued, awareness was raised, our services advertised, our events promoted… and it was sunny!
Moreover, encounters happened – cross-cultural ones: Australian, French, Turkish and Spanish visitors, all enjoying the story about the Library in the Park, admiring the cupboard (“Is it really that old? Over 70 years!”), commenting on the books, the hats or the future of libraries.
Children tried on the Brodie helmets, ready to leave with them on… Oops, those we do not lend! And then there was a lady, Kitty, born in the 1930s. She showed the ration books and coupons to a boy who was passing by, telling him stories from the war, what it was like – the bad, the good, the changes – two generations 70 years apart brought together by this little slice of living history.
It felt good. We had taken the library to the park, hoping to get the people from the park to come into the libraries. We had linked the inside and the outside, the past and present, the young and the old, an encounter between 1942 and 2015, meeting with stories and history! And isn’t that what defines a library: a place to meet with stories, history, and people?