Saturday, 1 January 2011


Welcome to this month’s round-up of local history and heritage in and around Blackmore, Essex.

Cull of Books

Just before Christmas I walked into Harlow Central Library only to find that the number of books on view in the ‘Local Studies’ section had been dramatically reduced by around two-thirds. There are now only two shelves on display and all of the reference books have disappeared, including the last ten years of the Essex Countryside, the Transactions of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History, plus Kelly’s Directory 1937, the series of Victoria County History, Morant’s Essex, to name but a mere few. Lovely old volumes are missing.

I asked the Librarian on duty what the policy is regarding the slimming down of the Local Studies section. He said that a cull of books was necessary to make for more space. When I replied that there was now acres of space in the Library he sought out his supervisor. He too confirmed that there had been a reduction in books on the floor to make way for more WiFi room and that the books are now in storage in a back room. I asked how people could access these to which the reply came that people looking for a specific book on the computer index can ask the Librarian on duty and it can be made available. A notice would be put up to that effect. I asked whether the Library still wanted the Transactions, for example. Yes, came the reply.

The problem with this approach is that a casual browser who nips into the Library will have no idea what is available. So he will not know how useful the Essex Journal is and perhaps consider taking out a subscription. Surely a Library is about browsing books and grabbing ones interest. It is about discovering new and interesting things. Apparently not, it seems.

As things stand, the town’s main library is half empty. If someone walks into a place and cannot readily find what he or she wants, he or she will give up and go without – especially if it is a matter of interest rather than being essential. So if you cannot find who the landlord or such-and-such a public house was in 1937 you would just give up.

This whole thing is a self-fulfilling prophesy. A large number of people have Internet access. I don’t want a Library to become a room of Internet users. If people cannot readily access the service they will stop using it. If people stop using the service, then the powers that be have justification in withdrawing or closing the service, thus saving money.

Does it matter? The fact that people access information in a different way – i.e. on the Internet (and thanks for visiting mine by the way) – means that the lending of books by libraries is in sharp decline. As a book lover I find that sad. But a lot of information is simply not available on the Internet. These books have their place in our society so why are they hidden away?

What do you think? Let me know,

William Byrd Festival

The ‘William Byrd Festival’ will be held at St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey, on 7, 8, 14 & 15 May 2011. For the latest information visit Byrd and Tallis, his contemporary, is this month's illustration.

A Folk Song A Day

With the demise of specialist music programmes in the BBC East Midlands region this week – including ‘Folkwaves’, which I listened to on the I Player - don’t forget the marvellous site


For an extensive list of links to other sites go to:

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