At the northern end of the UK’s Lake District, Keswick Library (KL) is in a tidy little building backed by the glorious green fells surrounding this bucolic market town on the shores of Derwent Water. Close to the historic shops, pubs and eateries in the outdoor pedestrian mall where we chanced upon some charming female Morris Dancers, one of the outer window panes promotes KL’s Information and Communications Technology and Internet Access.
Part of the fifty five facilities (including Library and Local Links and the Whitehaven Archive and Local Studies Centre, but not including the five Book Drops) that comprise Cumbria Libraries, KL serves around 5,000 people. Entering through the gray stone lobby, I noticed two large bulletin boards covered with flyers for local events, while by the copier and microfiche machines, a revolving spindle holds brochures on various types of cancer and nearby the titles in the “Well Read” display tackle mental health issues (each location has a health collection with a different emphasis). Some intriguing wall posters have old photos and documents on the theme of two hundred years of migration to England. Two types of literacy are addressed by the slim easy to read paperbacks in the “Wise Up… to words and numbers” rack adjacent to a case of reference volumes.
Glass fronted shelves house the Walpole Collection near old local studies books and on the other side of these stacks, against a white brick wall, some of the ten internet computers top a long table well lit by transom windows. A crate holds all the Ordnance Survey maps which can be copied for personal use by the many trampers drawn to Keswick for its myriad hiking opportunities. Many of the stacks are conveniently on wheels, and the ends have built in cases that are ideal for showcasing new and popular items.
It’s a bright cheery place with photos of daffodils and other flowers over the terminals. By the cushy leather and fabric chairs next to the Crime Corner (which features Harlan Coben and Elizabeth George, two of my favorites!), a wire bin holds collapsible, stackable net baskets. Lighter and deeper than the typical plastic ones, they can accommodate more selections.
Passing under this fantastic frieze of Keswick’s main street done by local schoolchildren…
…I spoke to friendly and informative June Downs, who, when I remarked upon this gorgeous piece, laughingly confided that many patrons who’d been coming for years would all of a sudden look up and finally notice it.
June, one of the two part time library assistants, told me that items are barcoded and that Cumbria Libraries covers the districts of Allerdale and Copeland and has a full time director. The various branches are managed by librarians, and KL’s covers Cockermouth Library as well. KL also has two senior library assistants, and upstairs has offices, storage, a staff room and kitchen.
CL lends out DVDs, music CDs, talking books (on CD, Playaway and MP3), maps, large print titles, language courses and local history materials and users have access to a number of online resources including newspapers from the 17th-19th centuries, a practice module for the extremely difficult UK driving test, the Cumbria Image Bank digital archive, government publications, ebooks and downloadable audiobooks.
KL offers internet taster sessions and ESL courses while Aspatria, just a half hour away has drawing and craft sessions and in 40 minutes drivers can get to Whitehaven for Pins and Needles, Tasty Wednesdays and the Teenspirational group.
CL has wi fi, and Access For All with delivery service to the homebound, residential facilities and sheltered housing, large key computers, induction loops for hearing aid users, and mobile libraries with step lifts. Some locations have accessible meeting rooms, toilets and reading machines. Bigger branches have reading groups for adults and youths, newsletters and staff that go into the community and to schools.
Users can post book reviews on the website and there’s a busy Facebook page with numerous photos, comments, and suggestions. The page also advertises a number of events including an author talk, a Comic Art Festival and Fairy Tales Storytime.
In the Kid’s Area, more mobile shelves keep the space flexible and a car and other gaily painted boxes store picture books while an adult size blue couch provides a comfortable spot for older folks. Dolls, toys, and games are scattered around and CL even offers a jigsaw collection.
Kids can listen to music or stories here (there’s an adult audio station too) and colorful posters cover the walls above these DVDs and audiobooks, though like most UK libraries, they do charge for borrowing any audio visual media.
Toddlers can borrow themed cloth bags (e.g. Little Polar Bear) holding a game, soft toys, a picture book and a nonfiction work on the subject. There are homework clubs, holiday activities and a summer reading program for children too.
Keswick Library is such a wonderful resource for this little village.