#LoveLamLibs Fun Palaces: Lambeth Libraries’ Heroes

Over the past week, Lambeth Libraries have been gearing up for their borough-wide, simultaneous 11-venue celebration of arts and sciences.

On the blog, I’ve featured special guests like the author Lucy Beresford, Stephann Makri and the zine-making team from City University, plus entrepreneur Tara Benson – as well as special projects like the online Fun Palaces Comic Maker.

Now the big day has arrived and today I want to celebrate the real heroes of Lambeth Libraries Fun Palaces – the librarians themselves.

Staff across the borough of Lambeth have worked tirelessly to deliver amazing events in every venue run by Lambeth Libraries and Lambeth Archives. They’ve sought partners and special guests, helped to devise and deliver activities, and reached out to give their communities the chance to make good on the Fun Palaces motto, “Everyone an artist, everyone a scientist.”

I can’t talk about every Lambeth Libraries staffer who has made this weekend possible, but I will highlight three names as examples of the brilliance these librarians have shown, delivering an amazing cultural programme within tight budgets and short notice.

Zoey Dixon is my co-producer on Lambeth Libraries Fun Palaces and the lead for the event within the organisation. Dynamic, creative, energetic, and determined, she’s been the guiding light for everything we have achieved over the past few months. Self-effacing but brilliant, she’s well worth contacting for workshops, conference panels, and speaking gigs. Expect to see her taking UK Library Fun Palaces on to ever greater heights in the future.

Caroline Mackie, pictured here with Mishi Morath of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, has been one of the most proactive and inventive library managers on this project. She’s been resourceful and ingenious in teaming up with a wide range of community partners, from footballers to jazz musicians to the fire service, all with an eye on Fun Palaces’ ethos of participation and play. Caroline works at Carnegie Library, which I’m aiming to visit this morning before heading off to Clapham.

Vincia Bennett with Stephann Makri

Clapham Library is run by Vincia Bennett, pictured here with City University’s Stephann Makri. Vincia has co-ordinated activities at Clapham Library, one of the most modern and beautiful buildings owned by Lambeth Libraries. Vincia and her team have arranged printmaking workshops and big-name partnerships, cake and snacks from neighbourhood cafes, plus a whole world of wonder and play for visitors on Saturday 3rd October.

These librarians, going above and beyond to showcase the best of British public libraries, deserve to be hailed for their work. All of them were a little camera shy, but no-one deserves to be celebrated more than they do.

If Lambeth Fun Palaces succeed, it’ll be through the efforts and expertise of Lambeth Council’s librarians, who have used their professional skills and their relationships with their community to make brilliant things happen for Londoners this weekend.

People sometimes think that libraries can be cut back in the 21st century, because they equate libraries with books on shelves and presume that in the age of the Internet and e-books, these public buildings and public servants are no longer necessary. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The UNESCO Public Library Missions established more than twenty years ago that community librarianship was more about play, creativity, and self-directed learning than items on shelves. The three women I’ve chosen to celebrate today are full-time library professionals who make good on the vision of public libraries as “the TARDIS on your streetcorner“: a humble box that can take local people anywhere in human knowledge or imagining, free of charge.

I hope that we’ll see you at a Lambeth Library Fun Palace today, but if we don’t, show your appreciation for Vincia, Caroline, Zoey, and public librarians everywhere by sharing this post and using the hashtag #LoveLamLibs.

Have a great day!

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