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Black History Month

Black History Month

October marks Black History Month in the United Kingdom.

Known as the ‘Father of Black History, Carter Godwin Woodson brought forward the celebration of Black History in 1926 in the United States. Initially, it was the second week of February, as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass celebrated their birthdays. But in February 1969, at Kent State University, it was proposed that it should be a whole month and the first Black History Month was celebrated at Kent State a year later.  President Gerald Ford became the first President to recognise Black History Month in 1976.

Black History Month in the United Kingdom

Black History Month was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in October 1987. That year marked the 150th anniversary of Caribbean emancipation, the centenary birth of Jamaican political activist Marcus Garvey and the 25th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity. October also coincides with the start of the Academic year. It was seen as an opportunity to bring in mainstream education. As organiser Akyaaba Abdai-Sebo recalled

I was stirred up in the mid-1980s by the identity crisis that Black children faced. A crisis of identity faced us squarely despite the Race Awareness campaigns of the Greater London Council and the Inner London Education Authority. More had to be done and so I conceived an annual celebration of the contributions of Africa, Africans, and people of African descent to world civilisationSource Link

At first, there was a focus on Black American History, but the emphasis shifted to ‘recognise the contributions and achievements of those with African or Caribbean heritage in the UK (BBC)

Decolonising our Collections

Here at the Library, all our Librarians are working hard to decolonise and improve the diversity of our Library collections. We realise the importance and significance of the work we need to do here at the Library. Not just when celebrating Black History Month but all year round to make our Library inclusive to all.

You can see some newly added books on our BIPOC virtual bookshelf.

More Information

Remember to check out our library/book displays at each campus site.

You can find out more including details on all the events that are taking place across the country at:

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/

Also, check out our Library catalogue for more information on Black history and to see new titles we have added.

By Maya Green

Unusual Libraries from the UK

Image Source

University libraries tend to be large spaces with shelves with thousands of books, computers and study spaces. Students are used to and expect to have these facilities. You may also use public libraries which may not be as big, but still house a huge variety of books and other resources, but not all libraries are the same……

Here are two Unusual Libraries from the UK

Bethnal Green tube station library

When war broke out in 1939 Bethnal Green Underground station was partly completed, and work was halted. In late 1940 it was decided that as the works were far enough ahead it could be used as a safe shelter for the public during air raids. Over a period of months, the station was transformed to house enough bunks to sleep up to 5000 people, a café, theatre and a nursery. This community 78 feet underground also gained a library in 1941-Britain’s only tube station library.

In September 1940 a bomb had fallen on the roof of Bethnal Green Public Library causing vast destruction to the adult learning library. Librarian George F. Vale and his deputy Stanley Snaith pulled a tarpaulin over the shattered glass dome roof and vowed to bring a library to the underground community. The council approved a grant of £50 and a library was created over the boarded-up tracks of the westbound tunnel. Stanley Snaith wrote “All last summer the caverns echoed to the din of hammers and saws. The result was a triumph.” Later in the Library Review 1942, he wrote “Libraries in converted shops, in village halls, in mobile vans are common enough. But libraries in tube shelters are something new under the sun.”

The tiny library measured 15 feet square and opened from 5.30-8pm every evening. It housed 4000 titles that had survived the bombing of the main library. Romances, classics, poetry and children’s books could be borrowed and help the residents to escape from the horrors happening above ground. Snaith wrote of his patrons, “Each dusk sees the first contingent making its way down to the bowels of the earth. The well and the ill, the old and the young, they come trooping down… In the library the youngsters are vocally busy with their book selection, but why should they not chatter to their heart’s content.” Now the “youngsters” are in their 90’s, but they still have fond memories of the tube station library. Pat Spicer, now 92 said, “You can’t imagine what that library represented to me as a place of safety. It sparked a lifelong love of reading.”

As the war dragged on many would have been anxious about what the future held, but in October Bethnal Green Library celebrates its centenary and tube trains still come and go from Bethnal Green station.

Phone box libraries 

Across the UK many redundant old red phone boxes have found a new use as micro libraries. This is often in rural areas which have been affected by cuts to spending on public libraries due to cuts in local council funding. The idea is simple-anyone can take a book home, but they are expected to bring it back or bring a replacement.

The first phone box library was set up in 2009 in Westbury-Sub-Mendip following cuts to the mobile library funding. The parish council purchased the box for £1 and locals put up wooden shelves and donated books.

These micro libraries operate on a system of trust and house a large range of titles from cookery books to classics and children’s books. In villages where everyone knows everyone, the system works well, but in some cities, micro libraries have been vandalised and the local community has had to fund and carry out repairs.

These are just 2 examples of libraries in unusual places. If you would like to find out about some other unusual libraries click on the links below:

The Worlds Oddest Libraries

Donkey Libraries of Columbia

ReadingClub2000

Also, check out our amazing article on

Wilderness Libraries of edamalakudi

 

By Vivienne Hamilton

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