By Noelle Williamson
When I went to return some library books in Bramley the other day, I got as far as the returns machine in the foyer and then realised that I didn’t have my Leeds Live card or membership number on me. Hmm. Now what?
Seeing me dithering, the smiling security man was quick to offer help. And a librarian hurried over from the main desk. Between them, they explained and showed me that I simply needed to scan the books – as a pile, not even individually – and that was that. And they didn’t make me feel like an idiot, either!
I didn’t need to borrow any more books that day but I wandered into the main library anyway. (It was dull outside, and Bramley Library’s open layout and great big skylight make for an airy, inviting space.)
There were several other people there already, at tables and the computer bank, but I got no further than the tiered display table just inside: look at all those books!
After a good ten minutes’ happy browsing, I’d put the novels The Startup Wife (“A rambunctious, radiant riot of a novel”), The Pisces (Laugh-out-loud funny”) and Dele Weds Destiny (“Fast-paced, glamorous and bursting with emotion” on my reading list, along with My Pear-Shaped Life (Well – I just like the title!) and Plume (“Biting and very funny” and “The perfect novel for our times”).
I think I’ll pass on Maoism and save The Sellout Party, (“The most lacerating American satire in years”) for when my nerves are stronger, but I do like the sound of Tez Ilyas’s memoir, The Secret Diary of a British Asian Muslim aged 13 ¾ (both “Razor sharp” and “Charming”).
I had wondered about the re-branding of libraries as ‘Community Hubs’. I’d seen the rows of computers for public use, and public libraries have a long tradition of storytime and library clubs.
At Farsley Library, there was a big jigsaw that anyone could add to, and hot drinks, too. But what else was on offer in our local libraries? I’ve since looked online on the Leeds City Council website and found that library staff can offer employment support, and help with requests for local services like housing repairs or parking permits.
At Armley, Pudsey and other branches, they even run free weekly drop-in sessions on getting more out of a tablet, smartphone or computer, whether you want to bring your own, or use a library PC!
But in Bramley, I found more answers as I went back through the foyer: on the table and windowsill were leaflets, flyers and posters about all sorts of groups and activities: Barca’s Better Together weekly programme of adult classes and activities; the Brownies at St Peter’s Church for 7-10 year-olds; Dance Fit, laid on by Bramley Elderly Action at the Community Centre on Waterloo Lane; the Fairfield Community Centre’s Urban Arts Project for 11-17 year-olds interested in DJing, graffiti, games or arts & crafts; Jigsaw at Trinity Methodist Church, offering time out and company for carers and anyone feeling isolated; and Leeds LGBTQ+ Community Consortium also aiming to relieve isolation with arts, events and activities. And posters for amateur and professional shows and getting involved in Leeds 2023 Year of Culture!!!
And services and volunteering opportunities, too. I found out about those tech drop-in sessions (#Digital121 Drop-in ‘Get online. Get Connected.’ from one of the flyers in the foyer! There are leaflets about volunteering with Leeds Libraries, on becoming a Shared Lives carer if you have a spare room.
There’s the offer of practical or emotional support through Linking Leeds, among others; and Leeds Unlocked (Looking out for Local Men #LEEDSMEN); domestic abuse support, regardless of gender, through The Prevention and Recovery Service. There’s also info on getting debt or money advice and energy or utility bill advice; and help from Age UK to avoid being scammed – or support if you have fallen victim to a scam.
Considering that I had only intended to be in and out, I found much more on offer than expected at my warm, bright, airy library and Community Hub.
Including – also in the foyer – these:
A community hub!