The Local Studies Library Project: save Croydon’s local history


By - Friday 11th January, 2013

The author of the Citizen’s long-running series on the history of London Road explains how cuts for the Local Studies Library threaten both her work and Croydon’s future


The Local Studies Library has been one of my happiest discoveries since I moved to Croydon in mid-2011. The first time I visited, in search of information about the history of London Road, I was amazed not only at the depth and breadth of the material but at the helpfulness and extensive knowledge of the staff.

I started getting properly interested in local history about a year ago, with no previous experience of archive-based research. For someone like me, there’s a huge difference between a casually-staffed, rarely-open, by-appointment-only room full of items (the likely outcome of the proposed cuts) and the current service, with its accessible opening hours and knowledgeable staff. Several times I’ve seen first-time visitors wander in with a tentative query, perhaps a little unsure of themselves, to be greeted warmly by the staff and offered help with their query; and by the end of the afternoon they’re excitedly chatting to other library users about the information they’ve discovered.

Indeed, the staff are part of the reason why I don’t believe the archive service should be cut, even for a temporary “tightening of the belt”. They’ve helped me find sources that I’d never have known to look for on my own: sales particulars going back to the 1800s, ephemera such as receipts and recipe books, unpublished research, and other library users with interesting things to say about my area of interest. There’s a huge amount of knowledge in their brains, both regarding Croydon and regarding the collection itself. If we let them go now, we lose that — and given the quality of their work, it’s unrealistic to expect them to still be on the job market if funds were restored in the future.

The Local Studies Library and Archives Service is used by a diverse cross-section of the population — all ages, all social classes, all ethnicities. It’s a place where we can learn about and become proud of our past, and I think it’s one of the most important tools we have as we move forward to shape Croydon’s future.

Click here to read about why the Croydon Citizen supports the Local Studies Archive, and why you should too!

Kake

Kake moved to England in the late '90s, fleeing from the Welsh valleys where you never get a clean glass for your second pint. After easing herself gently into the idea of city life via a few years in Oxford, she scoured London from Uxbridge to Upminster and finally settled on West Croydon as the perfect place to never move house from again. She likes public transport, urban exploration, real ale, fake cider, raw fish, and vegan food. You can email her at kake@earth.li

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  • http://twitter.com/LordBensham Terry Coleman

    On the occasions where I have used the service I have found the office
    very efficient, the staff diligent and knowledgeable. They are a valuable asset to the town. The
    archive service should be maintained.

    • http://www.earth.li/~kake/ Kake

      Well said, Terry!