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Although there had been an attempt to form a public library of sorts in Sawley - a catalogue of a book collection known as the "Sawley Parochial Library" was published as early as 1861 - such and idea wasn't suggested in Long Eaton until 1902. The idea was brought up in July of that year, and a committee with Samuel Clegg as secretary was formed to look into the possibility of such a venture.
The committee members pledged £1,150 between them to purchase land on which to build a library. The first site considered was a piece of Charity Land called "Poor's close", which had been rejected for use as a recreation ground. But eventually Parkin's Close, previously known as "Gorseholmes", was chosen. The Golden Brook had to be diverted before any building work could take place.
At this time, Andrew Carnegie was providing generous grants towards the provision of public libraries, on condition that land was already freely available. He was approached on behalf of the committee by Sir Walter Foster, a local MP. An offer of £3,000 was made on condition that the Long Eaton Urban District Council accepted the Public Libraries Act. The council adopted the proposals in May 1903, and the 1d library rate was imposed.
A competition was set up for architects to submit plans for the new library. Of the five sets submitted, the judges selected the design of Messrs. Gorman and Ross of Long Eaton. The actual building work was carried out by Messrs. Warner of Mickleover, the total cost being £2,747.17s.2d. On June 3rd 1905, Sir Walter Foster laid the foundation stone and Lord Fitzmorris officially opened the building on June 23rd 1906, the lending library was opened to the public on December 7th 1906.
Over the years, the public library has played a great part in both the educational and cultural life of the town. The building itself stands on a base of cream stone, the walls are of orange brickwork finished with a tiled freeze in a deep blue colour under wide overhanging eaves. A high circular pediment surrounds a design of gold mosaic depicting an angel holding an open book in one hand, and a torch in the other. Either side of the entrance are large windows set into square supports, embellished with panels in gold mosaic, bearing the words "Pax" and "Lux" (Peace and Light).
As the library rate was set at 1d in the pound, the committee found it difficult to build up a balanced supply of books. Nevertheless, 25,000 books were issued in 1907. The restriction was lifted in 1919, when the revised Public Libraries Act passed through parliament, enabling more books to be purchased.
At first, library members wishing to borrow a book had to choose titles from a list. The books were then fetched by library staff and brought to the counter. This system of "closed access" was practised all over the country. But Arthur Hooper, who was the librarian between 1905-1938, made alterations to allow "open access" in 1924, after which members could select books directly from the shelves.
In 1931, the Carnegie Trust donated a further £350 for book purchase. A children's library had started in 1912, which expanded so much that an extension had to be built at the rear of the building to house it and some much needed office space. In 1966, the Stevenson gallery was opened by Sir Alec Clegg. It was named after Mrs E. Stevenson, the only woman to be chairman of the LEUDC.
1930 saw the development of a co-operative scheme with the Derbyshire County Library. This meant members of both libraries could use each others resources free of charge. This reciprocal arrangement has continued and extended to include libraries all over the country.
The Mobile Library Service
Long Eaton's mobile library is the best used in the service and is thoroughly appreciated by its many users, old and young. Access is made easy for the elderly, disabled and young mothers with babies in pushchairs, by means of a hydraulic ramp which can be raised and lowered.
The vans always carry a good selection of books and have their own junior section for toddlers and young children. Books can be requested and if available will be brought along at the next scheduled visit. One gentleman even telephoned all the way from New Zealand to order a book for his mother who lived in the Long Eaton area. The staff happily obliged, and the lady received the book at the next visit.
The mobile library visits each area once a fortnight, and below is the current timetable for the Long Eaton and Sawley area, giving days, times and stopping points.
For more information about the mobile service, telephone; 01629 580000 EXT: 6589, or if you see the van in your area, pop in and become a member.