Burning calories, burning books

Leonie Rousham‘s take on the Lambeth library controversy in words and images

Burning calories is all very well, but burning books has horrendous historical precedents.

This sums up why Lambeth council plans to merge some South London libraries with gym spaces will not work. A few books shoved into an unaccommodating corner? No library-staff? Fifteen sweaty people riding on gym bikes next to me as I try to write articles like this? No thanks.

Leonie_jan16_3_500We know that the current South London libraries work. Brixton Tate Library has existed since 1893. As for these new GLL gyms, however, there is no business case, no market research and not even a basic feasibility study. The details on remodelling are still vague.

The protests that have taken place over the last couple of months have evidenced the support and importance of Lambeth libraries in creating a positive sense of community. It is this which we will have to continue to defend.

In these illustrations, I am recording the protests that once again have come to define our determination to make Brixton a better place to live for everyone (not just those that can afford a gym card).

It is ignorant to think that a library has only one purpose – to loan a selection of books. The library space should not be seen, solely, as an environment that grants you the freedom to lose yourself in a book. A space that provides many who may not have the resources at home, with computers and wifi. A space to be social, a space that hosts community clubs and talks, a space that involves conversation with the librarian about recommendations. This is not a space that can be replaced by advances in technology – virtual socialising can only go so far. The internet does not equip us with peacefulness and we cannot climb into the computer for warmth and shelter during the winter.

I relied on the library environment to motivate me to keep working during exams, something I could not have found at home or at school. The Brixton Tate Library saved me, my friends and hundreds of other students who need that space and support to revise for A-Levels and GCSEs.

My mum used it while she was studying and we watched films on Saturday morning in The Ritzy next door.

We have a right to education and why should this enrichment stop when we leave the school building? As a student, I have already become completely disillusioned with the education system, with the rise in tuition fees. The prospect of losing libraries (a space to learn freely) is devastating to me.

We have to carry on complaining and companying.

Maybe we should take inspiration from the “BOOK BLOC”. In 2010 the Book Bloc made its way to the London student marches.

They are protest shields where the front has been emblazoned with titles and spray-paint to resemble book covers offering protection and knowledge. The success of these placards lies in their accessibility, everyone has their own favourite book. Likewise everyone can recount his or her own personal demonstration. Marcos’ Our Word is our Weapon or Beckett’s End Game seem fitting titles.


Perhaps this mode of protest is the way forward.

V&A Disobedient Objects has images and tutorials on making your own Book Bloc.



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