If there is any library as near and dear to me as Peabody’s, it is my other library…the Stoke Newington branch of the Hackney Library, right down the street from where I lived once-upon-a-time. So today, I thought I’d give you a glimpse inside this library as my first official Postcard From London….
Stoke Newington, home of Daniel DeFoe, is a lovely area in the London Borough of Hackney (where the term ‘Hackney Cab’ originated) that once-upon-a-time was its own borough, but got shoved into Hackney during a re-organization in the 1970’s…but Stoke Newington has never, ever, ever gotten over it. Thus, they are a unique group unto themselves, who delight in their own quirkiness. It’s a haven of vintage shops, bakeries, and utterly unique little cafes. like Peabody, it is a place with a wide range of economic and individual diversity, and the library is a place that revels in that diversity and offers people a place to talk, share, and learn (much like Peabody, too, right?) For example, in the lobby of the library, there is a display created by the local community crafter’s guild…it’s a 100% knitted, to-scale model of Stoke Newington Common…complete with knitted busses, knitted trains, and knitted trees. Take a look:
The library itself was build in 1933 as a memorial to the men of Stoke Newington who died in the First World War. Inside, there is a space for community events and announcements, and in the main room is a section with public-use computers, a children’s room, and a career center, which holds English as a Second Language classes, as well as business and technology classes. If you’re really super-interested, you can take a look at their programs here.
Like our libraries, the Stoke Newington Library is also hosting several different summer programs for the community. My personal favorite is the Summer Reading Challenge, which is geared towards kids, but adults are also widely encouraged. The rules are simple: pledge to read 6 books. Then read them. You can read anything you like, but patrons are encouraged to challenge themselves with genres or stories they haven’t read previously. There are little prizes as you read, from tote bags to mugs, and at the end of the summer, there is a party in Stoke Newington Town Hall (right next door to the library) for all the devoted readers. While I was checking out my books (yes, I still have my library card!), an eight-year-old girl was pledging to read eight books, because that’s how old she was, and both she and the librarian were thrilled to pieces to sign her up.
That’s right! Edgar Allan Poe moved to Stoke Newington when he was taken in by the Allan family at the age of twelve. He lived there for three years, long enough to have some memories of the place, and certainly long enough for the place to remember him. I adore the fact that he is referred to here as an “American Romancer”. I think the intention was to say that he was a writer in the Romantic tradition, but this title is so much better, don’t you think?
I hope you enjoyed this little trip around Stoke Newington’s Library. More quirky postcards to follow soon!