Crofton Park Library
The Evolving Interior of Crofton Park Library
A softly spoken family of three, two parents and their adult son, who have been coming to this library for a quarter of a century, wander slowly around. The son tries to wander off home, which encourages the father to do the same but their movements are checked by the mother who tells them both to hold on. The father says he uses the library for DIY books – the mother uses it to get audio tapes and CDs for her blind mother. They prefer the way the library is now to the way it was fifty years ago as it is more colourful and light.
The Slowly Slowly DIY Family

Andrew Carnegie funded public libraries to instruct the working classes and to aid and facilitate the education of a workforce which would provide the technological dynamism for a modern United States, Scotland and England. The Crofton Park Library of the 1950s and 1960s was a formal, educative and informative environment; one in which the working classes could be inspired, contemplative and absorb the wisdom which was presented around them. Books were ordered in neat rows on shelves set against the walls of the library. The inner sanctum, the librarian’s desk sat in the centre surrounded by a sea of varnished wooden floor.

Fifty years later and the library is no longer a tool of modernist progress but instead a plaything for post-modernist recreation. In 2008 the colourful, cluttered and cheaply furnished Crofton Park library is more suggestive of play than instruction. The books, once well behaved and lined up against the wall, are lazily strewn across cheap shelves which wind their way into the middle of the library. The direction of the shelving is haphazard – deliberately so – the aim being to disorient library users and give them a sense of the unexpected. The sacred varnished wooden floor has been dispensed with, replaced with an orange and brown carpet. Gwen Randall, Branch Librarian, prefers the carpet telling me they cut down on noise and are more comfortable. She adds ‘I don’t think there were many staff who didn’t at one time or another deposit themselves inelegantly on the floor’.

A large chunk of the library has been partitioned off for staff offices – the original staff offices on the first floor being no longer fit for use. One user complains about the library’s messiness - I notice a lollypop stick, which still has a tiny bit of lolly welded to its top; sitting on a bookshelf next to a book lying on its side. I pick up the lollypop, which stuck to the bookshelf resists slightly and I show it to the user.
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