Sunday, 17 June 2007

A red brick building with large glass panels and seamless sliding doors nestles beside Sainsbury’s just off of the Roman Rd. there is a fat tattooed bouncer/security guard at the main entrance. As I enter my senses are assaulted by garish lime green, red and orange covering parts of the walls and floor. A coffee shop beckons you inside with stainless steel tables and chairs; the cappuccino machine coughs and splutters as it froths up a carton of milk. An Elderly man sits drinking his tea next to the touch screen information centre; there are CD’s and DVD’s to rent but where are the books? This is Tower Hamlets vision of the future, a new idea for libraries, this is the Idea Store.

The Library of Secrets celebrates the value and function of existing libraries which are under valued, under funded and under threat. New government initiatives such as the Idea Store ring the death knell for the libraries that I grew up using. These beautiful Victorian constructions and strange squat 60’s builds, house slightly ailing book collections with skilled librarians who have a genuine desire to assist in the dissemination of knowledge and information. Local libraries have been under funded and under threat for many years seeing closures in smaller, more rural towns across England. Progress does not have to mean destroying what already exists by replacing a well-established system with a brand new one, which is more about image than content. Progress is surely improved facilities and more money for books not coffee shops and touch screen information centres, which demonstrate a dehumanising trend towards the blurring of consumerism and culture.

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