Crofton Park Library
Pat: Crofton Park Library User Since the 1940s

Pat was ten years old when she first started using Crofton Park Library in the 1940s. She recalls how in the forties and fifties the Brockley Road area had a nice feel to it, people seemed to know each other, and there was a proper assortment of shops: butchers, bakers, greengrocers and fish and chip shop.

Pat would have probably visited the library at a younger age had it not been for her family fleeing London during the Second World War. In the early part of the war she and her family huddled together in a shelter at the bottom of their garden as the Germans dropped bombs on the nearby railway line. On her return to London Pat found a post-war Brockley, which like everywhere else in the UK, was subject to rationing. Few people had significant material wealth. Children had little or no toys, TV was non-existent and books were a precious commodity few could afford. It was within this context that Pat and her contemporaries became eager users of Crofton Park Library. Nowadays we take books and libraries for granted but in Pat’s childhood days a library must have been an Aladdin’s cave.

Pat went to the library every day and believes the experience shaped her life and future. It undoubtedly gave her a passion for learning and a determination to enter grammar school. Pat recalls how her mother reluctantly ceded to her demands to go to grammar school worried that the family could not afford all the equipment that a grammar school education required. Regular library attendance almost certainly prepared Pat for a career in administration and filing – when she was twelve or thirteen she started helping one of the librarians with the filing cards (back in those days there was no computer system to register who had taken which books out). Pat also believes her proficiency in spelling, which her grandchildren sometimes take advantage of, is down to her reading.

Pat continues to use the library to indulge her passion for historical novels set in ‘turn of the nineteenth century’ Britain. She commented on the large number of children who seemed to use the library these days but also noticed that not many older people used it. I asked Pat to contrast the colourful if higgledy piggeldy layout of twenty-first century Crofton Park Library with the formality, varnished wooden floors and spacious interior of the sixties and seventies. Pat told me she preferred it as it was and that as someone who didn’t use computers she didn’t have much time for the computer section. “They’re all just sitting there” she said “and nowadays people only talk in emails”.
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