Thanks so much for the wonderful messages on my last post folks, my laptop is running again and I haven’t lost to much data. I’ll have my second part of the reading journal mini-series of posts up tomorrow for you. In the meantime though I want to show you this:
I found this image awhile ago and just had to share it with you, this is what the ‘juvenile reading room’ looked like in the Holbeck Branch Library just after World War One, say about 1919/1920. I found the image in a book I was reading in amongst some other photos of Leeds branch libraries, some I recognised as still in use and some which have closed or moved buildings. Doesn’t it seem crazy today to imagine that public libraries never used to have the books on open display….?
Instead, in most libraries at that time, you had to check the card index for titles and authors you fancied trying, fill in a request slip, give it to a member of staff who retrieved the book for you and then you read it in a reading room like the one pictured above. I guess I’d never considered it before but of course the same system applied to children and juveniles – it’s just hard to picture today’s young men and women sitting patiently waiting for their books to arrive and reading them in almost silence in a room like this!
This particular library was in the working class, mills-and-factories area of Leeds so perhaps it might have helped one or two of the readers to self-educate themselves into a better future… It must have been a very different reading experience though, sitting there hour after hour, shivering in the cold and drafty room, reading communally but not talking in case the librarian ssshhh’d you or kicked you out.
I can’t imagine there being much fun in such a stark space and it’s a far cry from the spaces we create for younger readers today: