Remember Eve Jeffries’ recollections about the Butter Market, when it housed a library well used by schoolchildren?
Miss E Barber, of Spitalfield Lane, Chichester, writes:
I was interested to read the recollections of the library above the Butter Market.
I first remember it in West Street where it occupied the ground floor of what had probably been a private house.
The floor was covered in shiny brown lino over which my wellies squeaked like mice in wet weather, so exasperated shushes from librarians and browsers would follow my noisy progress through the two main rooms to the children’s annexe built on at the back.
Total silence was the rule in those days, so any sound – turning pages, a trapped wasp, somebody clearing their throat – seemed tremendously loud.
Once, before I could read properly myself, I asked my mother what a sign said and she whispered ‘quiet please’– so I asked again when we got outside!
When the library moved to Tower Street it astounded everyone by installing a computer and issuing members with new cards of thin plastic punched with a pattern of holes (no barcodes back then).
My parents were outraged at this waste of taxpayers’ money. Computers, indeed! A nine-day wonder if ever they saw one.
I was a pupil then at the Central Junior Girls’ School in Chapel Street, so every day I would walk through the car park which connected the two streets (where Woolstaplers is today) to wait for my mother in the warmth and safety of the children’s section, which was on the far right overlooking the library car park.
I usually had it to myself at that time of the day, and would settle myself with a book on the red PVC bench by the window from which I was supposed to watch for mum, though I usually forgot all about that, absorbed in a story.
When she managed to get my attention, I’d reluctantly return it to the shelf hoping no-one would borrow it before I could get back, which happened all too often when a weekend intervened. So many stories I’ll never know the end of now.
Others may disagree, but I miss the peace and quiet of those days. The modern library seems noisy and overcrowded by comparison, cluttered with things which had no place in the treasury of books it once was.
How long, one wonders, before books as we know them are obsolete and can only be viewed on the screen of those nine-day wonders my parents so decried?