Sheffield Libraries often run reminiscence groups, and in April 2015 we held a library-themed reminiscence session at Crystal Peaks. Nine people joined in, including one former and two current library workers, and the discussion moved from childhood libraries to Kindles to Terry Pratchett. Below are snippets from the conversation.
Margaret: I've just come back about 8 weeks ago to live in Sheffield. Last week I went to Surrey Street on the tram to see the library and it's all exactly as it used to be, but the walls are white whereas it was all dark brown before and really intimidating. I've got a memory of walking down the library and hearing a piano tinkling and people singing, and I rather had the idea that they used to do music lessons there. I was fascinated to see it again, I just sat there for quite a while.
Beryl: Can you remember music recitals? Before everyone had their own music, they used to put on recitals. And we used to have film shows for the children. You can't imagine it now – a hundred children in a queue outside waiting to come to see old films.
Judith: My library was Broomhill, I went there from when I was quite young. I still go, or I go to Surrey Street… I did used to have the library bus come. I didn't really need it; I only joined to help out the old ladies nearby who couldn't get out to the library.
Muriel: I go to Greenhill. I used to buy my books, I spent a lot – a lot – of money. I've got a library at home, upstairs, downstairs, in cupboards. All sorts. No love stories. No Mills and Boons. I like thrillers, sci-fi, adventure, stuff like that. I've got four or five library books out now.
Tracy: Obviously you all love libraries lots!
Margaret: Well that was the first question I asked my son, when he said "I've found a house for you in Waterthorpe" – I've only been here 8 weeks – the first thing I said was "is there a library nearby?" Because that's so important.
(What’s your favourite thing about the library?)
Joan: It's free.
Beryl: It's open to everybody.
Enid: Meetings like this. A chat.
Muriel: The books.
Margaret: The friendly staff. I don't feel like I shouldn't be there, or people are looking at me, I can just finish my book.
Judith: It used to be that I'd read a lot of books, three or four a week, but I lately I've not been able to because I've not been very well. At the moment, it's coming to these groups. I'm trying to get back into reading again but my memory's not very good... It's going out to meet people, to start getting into things so I can get better at remembering things.