Dalston CLR James Library celebrates 10th anniversary

“It was such a pleasure to visit Dalston CLR James Library today to celebrate 10 years since its official opening.

“When the Library was first opened in 2012, by my predecessor Jules Pipe CBE, and the writers John Hegarty and Nick Hornby, the Council was rightly proud of the fact that whilst Libraries up and down the country were closing, Hackney was continuing to invest in the service, and opening a brand new state of the art library. Ten years later, our commitment to Hackney’s Libraries is as strong as ever. As one of the only councils in the country to have kept all its Libraries open after more than a decade of austerity, we have recently refurbished Clapton and Shoreditch Libraries, and have started a programme of work to repair and refurbish Stoke Newington Library. We are making investment plans for Stamford HIll and Homerton, and exploring options for a brand new Library and community hub at Woodberry Down.   

Over the past few months we have been engaging with residents to help us shape a vision for the future of Hackney’s Libraries. Over 8,000 people responded to the Our Libraries engagement campaign, through coming to events, through questionnaires and discussion groups, and through our online platforms, giving us their opinions on how we can best use our Libraries as community hubs at the heart of each of our neighbourhoods. Amazing and creative ideas from a schools competition reaching 1,200 children, to reimagine and design Hackney Libraries for the future, are now on display in Libraries across the borough. So many good ideas have come out of that work, with residents and with our passionate and committed Library staff, and all that work is going into shaping our plans for the future, which we will be ready to share in a few months time. It is clear that our Libraries are important to many people across Hackney; to families with young children, to young people looking for study space and resources (something also highlighted in the Hackney Young Futures Commission), for community groups, as cultural hubs, and as places to learn and to bring people together. They already do so much, but there is potential to do so much more in these precious community spaces, and to make them more relevant and accessible to residents and local groups. 

“So much has changed in the decade since we opened Dalston CLR James Library. We have undergone a digital revolution in those ten years, and we need to ensure that our Libraries change to keep pace with new technologies and changes to the way we work and access information. Deepening inequalities in access to the housing market have led to yet more overcrowding, making it even more vital that our young people, and adults, have access to study and workspace outside their homes. During the pandemic it wasn’t easy to maintain a comprehensive library service, with so many staff redeployed and buildings closed. However, as Mayor it was heartening to meet staff from the Community Library Service who delivered books and other materials directly to residents’ homes, there were also online and telephone book clubs and we expanded our digital collections and access to reduce isolation and extend access.

“Our heightened awareness of the climate crisis places a new emphasis on more sustainable living, curbing our consumption, and borrowing rather than buying. This has always been at the heart of public Libraries, and we have expanded that with our new Library of Things at CLR James where people can borrow household items alongside books. Issues around racism and inequality have never been more prominent, and I am so pleased that the Council listened to community campaigners and his family ten years ago and retained the name of prominent Black writer CLR James at the new Dalston library when it opened.

“My visit today was a great opportunity to reflect on all of this, and to publicly renew the commitment to our Libraries that saw this project delivered in 2012. This Thursday is World Book Day so I invite young residents in our borough to come to any Hackney Library and take advantage of our offer to pick up a free copy of a World Book day book. Our Hackney Libraries have a great future, and I am looking forward to sharing our plans for them with local people later this year. “

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