Monday, October 25, 2010

The New Old Library

It seems that Penryn Library is about to fall victim to Cornwall Council's £110m cost-cutting initiative, details of which were made public today.

Reading between the lines it looks as though the library will either be closed or handed over to volunteers - if any suitable ones can be found.

Of course my immediate thought, apart from "bastards" and "where will the Blue Kitten get her Turn-the-Wheel with Spot books from now?" and "what kind of civilisation closes its libraries, for fuck's sake", and "there goes another community focal point" and "how can we expect standards of literacy to rise if this is the kind of thing we let happen?" was "well, this poses a problem for Penryn's microtoponymy and no mistake".

You see, just around the corner from the library is a very handsome bow-fronted building, whose name is The Old Library. Here it is, resplendent in today's autumn afternoon sunshine.

The Old Library was once the actual library, but it's someone's house now, a bit like The Old Fire Station*, at the other end of the street.

Which made me think: if the current library goes the way of the Old Library, will the owners of The Old Library have to rename their gaff The Old Old Library?

And as the economic downturn continues to bite into Penryn, where every other shop is now empty, will we soon see a raft of similar name plaques springing up as abandoned emporia are turned into private residences?

'The Old Pet Shop'

'The Old Off-Licence'

'The Old Sex Shop'

And so on, until the whole of Penryn is just a collection of houses whose names preserve a blueprint of how the town used to function.

Which is a neat post-modern concept, but a rubbish reality. I'd rather have the library than The Old Library, any day.

* Which, as James points out, looks like it's built from Lego. In fact this actual Lego fire station looks more like a real fire station and less like Lego than The Old Fire Station does.


Dave said...

Well, Twitter has at last been of value to me, as it alterted me to the fact that you've blogged again.

Is an Old People's Home one now occupied by aliens - or perhaps now converted to be a shop?

marshaklein said...

'The Old Sex-Shop' reminded me of this:

Reminds me of the 80s when heavy industry was replaced by 'heritage sites' Plus ça change eh?


Boz said...

As a school governor (hem hem, self-important grimace etc.) the closing of any local library is a distressing form of madness.

It's all very well me wittering on about how some of my earliest memories are form our local library (which they are) but I can say with absolute certainty that our school has to pile extra money into additional reading and writing "interventions". Closing libraries ain't gonna help this.

patroclus said...

Dave: The Old People's Home is probably a trendy bar.

Marsha: Ha! The genius of Tom Lehrer, he is brilliant. And yes, we're surrounded with 'heritage sites' (aka closed-down mines) here.

Boz: This is very much what I fear. I had no idea you were a school governor, that's excellent.

Valerie said...

Boz is right, and more than that — I think childhoods bereft of library experiences are going to lead to more crime, mindless conservatism and deprecation of science in 15-20 years. That scares the beans out of me, frankly, because it's already getting so bad even *with* libraries.

Geoff said...

The Big Society volunteers will save the day. As long as they pay the electricity bill.

Christopher said...

This process could go on for ever, gradually building up toponymic incrustations, so that future historians could slice into it like a scotch egg. E.g. 2a, Ye Olde Tea Shoppe Dental Clinic Offy Tattoo Parlour Mews would not only grace anyone's letterhead but would remind us that only change is constant.

Tim Footman said...

Your use of words such as microtoponymy has the same effect on me as pictures of Jessica Alba in her pants have on normal gentlemen of my age.

Rosie said...

Why don't they just close everything while they are at it. There's nothing left to enjoy. How can they close libraries? That's insane. Now I'm going to have to rant for months.