Thursday 18 October 2018

Cheshire Libraries - Part Two

Last week, Part One of our blog on Cheshire Libraries looked at the job of Librarian and at people's appreciation of their local library.  In Part Two we look at how libraries have changed over the years - and you can check how well your local library was doing compared to others in Cheshire!

All librarians have to contend with the occasional late return of their library's books and this was clearly the case in days gone by as well.  Library rules found on the back of a 1930s application for Neston Library states quite fiercely that,
"All books must be returned within 15 days...under a FINE OF ONE PENNY FOR EACH DAY THEY ARE RETAINED BEYOND THAT DATE."
Most libraries today have embraced technology and have self-service machines to issue and return books, but many of us still remember library tickets such as these 'new' borrowers tickets issued to Bollington Library at the time of its reorganisation in 1934.

Another big change is how family-friendly most libraries are these days, with Rhyme Times, the Summer Reading Challenge and a host of other activities for children on offer across Cheshire Libraries. Compare this with number 18 of Neston Library's rules in 1934:

"Borrowers' Tickets will not be issued to persons under the age of 11 years."
Documents held at Cheshire Archives show how meticulous librarians were at keeping records, with issues big and small noted in many different library committee books.  Some kept records not only of which books were borrowed, but also categorised who their borrowers were.  Going back to the Librarian's Report Book of Middlewich Library, the first annual report of 1891 recorded the occupations of their borrowers which included seven butchers, 15 milliners and dressmakers and 137 scholars - as well as 180 people categorised as Wives and Daughters!

It also recorded the year's most popular books, or books with largest circulation.  In the 'Light Literature' section A Life's Secret by Mrs Henry Wood was borrowed 40 times and for Juvenile Literature the Julia Donaldson of the day was a writer called Hesba Stretton - her book No Place Like Home was issued 43 times, and she also had two other books in the top ten.

What is evident across our records is how the reach and popularity of libraries grew over time.  This annex to the Report of the County Librarian from 1933-34 shows how many books Cheshire's Libraries held and how many books they issued.  Alderley Edge, Bollington, Handforth and Sandbach all issued over 4,000 books but bigger libraries like Alsager and Wilmslow issued over 10,000 and 18,000 books a year.

Can you find your local library on the list?  We wish you a long and happy membership of your Cheshire Library!

All of these items and more are available to view at Cheshire Record Office in Chester.

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