Harwich – Harwich Library


I’ve decided that I can establish a reasonable information about a town or city by the sort of library that it maintains. This one, located opposite the town’s JD Wetherspoon pub, is open five days a week including until 19:00 on one evening. For anyone who likes challenges, guess what this building used to be. The answer is further down the post.


It has tables, so that’s a win for me, and there’s also a relatively substantial local history collection. There was quite an argument going on between a visitor and the librarian, the former claiming they had paid a book fine and the latter stating very firmly that their system showed that they hadn’t. I was a little disappointed not to see the matter resolved, but there’s a limit to how long I’m prepared to wait in a library to see how a customer service issue unfolds. I like a bit of drama with my library visit, it adds something just that bit intangible.


There was some sort of recycling display in the corner to add a little something to the whole arrangement. As for the library, it seemed quiet and comfortable with plenty of books, I didn’t have much to complain about at all. Nothing overly inspiring, but it was open when I wanted to go in it, so that’s sufficient given the current national cutbacks.

There’s an interesting story that I can’t quite understand which is that the denizens of Harwich in 1903 rejected a £3,000 sum from Andrew Carnegie to build themselves a library. This philanthropist funded 3,000 libraries around the world and I haven’t come across an instance where his offer was rejected, although I’m sure it must have happened in numerous locations. The local newspaper commented that “Andrew Carnegie must sometimes feel sad at the inexplicable conduct of some unenlightened people” and that seems a fair summary of the situation. A local vote showed that 235 residents wanted a library and 536 didn’t. I assume that’s because Carnegie required the local ratepayers to take responsibility for the institution and the taxpayers didn’t want that hassle. The local newspapers show that for the next thirty years there was anger from residents writing to say they needed a public library and why wasn’t the council providing them one.

And, for the answer to my question earlier on, it was a bus station. Congratulations to anyone who guessed from the frontage of the building.