I had a thought provoking stroll on Tuesday around bits of Liverpool I'd never seen before. I visited Toxteth Library as it's one of the locations for my LOOK/13 book. It's right next to the splendour of the Anglican Cathedral. The library though is a gem in it's own right, opened in 1902 it is beautifully proportioned with a dome, all harking back to a time when libraries were an essential way of accessing information and central to a community. This description is from the Victorian Society website:
"Red brick and stone trim. Symmetrical to Windsor Street, with two big Venetian windows under gables with obelisks, the main entrance with a far-projecting hood. Small cupola above. Two more Venetian windows to Upper Parliament Street. The former reading room (north side) contains a mural by W. Alison Martin and Clinton Balmer, an allegory with Knowledge enthroned; also a copper plaque in Celtic Art Nouveau style by C. E. Thompson, commemorating the opening by Andrew Carnegie."
Just the fact that I could search and find that information in a matter of seconds from my sofa illustrates how our world has changed and how libraries are incredibly vulnerable in the present cuts climate. It seems very sad as the library was actually quite busy but busy with people who don't have much of a voice in our society.
I explored a bit of the area around the library and was quite surprised at how derelict some of it was, being right on the edge of the city which on the whole is incredibly smart and apparently prosperous. Large swathes of unused land, a boarded up church with an empty churchyard and no one to be seen. It reminded me of bits of Birmingham when I moved there in the 1980's before the word regeneration had even been thought up. I suppose cities are constantly changing and adapting to the way in which life alters, but it feels like we are definitely living in a time of huge flux. Old models of behaviour are rapidly evaporating, whether this is how we shop, socialise, entertain ourselves or access information.
So just one photograph that seemed quite pertinent, what looks like part of a washing basket in the middle of an abandoned patch of land with nature carrying on doing what it does, growing up through the middle and all around. We are right on the edge of the city here with the cathedral in view one way and the Mersey in view to the other.
If you'd like more information about Searching, my book project for the libraries of Liverpool, please check these websites: