When Marton Library faced closure as a result of government cuts to local authorities the whole community rallied round to save this vital facility. It was vital that volunteers came forward to assist the library service and a whole raft of community events and activities were centred on a building at the heart of the suburb. For instance a guided walk next Saturday from Guisborough walkway back to the library.
On Saturday morning Marton Library’s celebrations formed part of the final fling of Middlesbrough Literary Festival with comedy script writer and author Dean Wilkinson hosting a workshop. There were also children busy with activities in a corner and Yorkshire poet Jane Sharp was on hand to read her work and sell From Maths to Making Tea, a specially collated booklet for the event.
MP Tom Blenkinsop once used this library as a youngster when he lived around the corner. So it was very apt that he should cut the cake to celebrate the birthday with former staff, volunteers and many of the library users.
Like Tom I also used to live near here in Chestnut Drive and being pretty much the same age as the library you could say we grew up together. I remember borrowing books here when attending Captain Cook school, non fiction usually about trains, bridges, the British Isles and different countries around the world things like that. This place helped fire my imagination and love of history and geography. It certainly set many of us on the way to developing our reading skills and getting lost in our hobbies as well as our early studies.
The events took place just a mile or so north of Stewart Park parkrun and I recognised a couple of runners and volunteers from that event. A couple of miles further north again perhaps 250 people were also running at Albert Park parkrun. Three popular community binding events, using council facilities but reliant on volunteers to give their time and energy.
I chatted briefly to Tom Blenkinsop MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland about the library birthday.
Rob: We are at the 50th birthday party of Marton Library. Just how important is the library to its local community?
Tom: It is massively important for the local community. You have to pay tribute to the local councillors Tom Mawston and Dorothy Davidson for galvanising the local community around the Friends of Marton campaign. I remember when it kicked off and it has brought in loads and loads of different people from the community and spurned lots of other activities for residents here. For me, for someone that was brought up living round the corner and uses this library it is quite funny in a way coming along and celebrating the 50th birthday cutting the cake and celebrating it. But it is nice.
Rob: And if the library had closed and not made its 50th birthday just looking at all the events and activities on the walls that you were mentioning it would have been a big loss in all sorts of ways.
Tom: Any library closing is a loss to a community. We have got to remember that libraries are not just a warehouse for books they are living, active, breathing places where lots of other activities and events take place and they provide one of the pillars of society in helping literacy. That could be for young children in the local community but increasingly now adult literacy for some of our residents. You have got 60-70 year old pensioners living in the area who went straight into industry without any qualifications and weren’t really helped at school when they were younger because conditions such as dyslexia and dyspraxia were not diagnosed at the time and they never had the opportunity because they were never given the opportunity to read. These libraries and the volunteers here working with local schools and the council provide those opportunities and I think we have got to remember that it is not a straight forward A to Z route in life sometimes people go through different letters in different orders and end up at different points in time because opportunities are given or not given.