The Chelsea Blog – December 2012

Chelsea Library
Chelsea Library

Chelsea Library is no stranger to supernatural activity. A lady in crinolines has been spotted by one of the hall keepers, Patrick, floating between the stacks – she may be a normal reader but a clue to her identity is linked to the penny farthing propped up in the mind/body/spirit section. In keeping with the ghostly theme we held a Halloween craft event in the children’s library where children listened to scary stories and then made ghosts, bats and pumpkin face masks. Senior Customer Services Assistant Sue Couteux, came into her own adding straws to the models so the masks could be held up and waved in parents’ faces. The event was bustling and very well attended – twenty two adults and 37 children. It may have been 38 but I don’t think we can count the little boy in knickerbockers who was left behind. A member of staff called the number on his library card—it was only three digits— the house no longer existed.

Halloween craft
Halloween crafts

The children’s library was given an autumnal face lift with a display of tree, clouds and a particularly ferocious squirrel brilliantly designed by Customer Service Assistants, Ewis and Amy. The autumn craft event was an opportunity for children to release their inner pagan and design a green man style face mask. Sue designed plates decorated with cobwebs catching all the seasonal goodies (nuts, berries, mushrooms, squirrels – cut out, coloured in and collaged). We also made a leaf man out of leaves and twigs staff collected during their lunch hour in Battersea Park.  The Leaf Man proved very popular with both children and mums and dads. 52 people attended.

Chelsea Halloween wall
Chelsea Library’s Halloween wall

With the totem pole flashing on and off we erected an erotica display, In Between the Sheets in the main library. It has generated a lot of interest. One reader said ‘how disgusting’ and strode straight across to confirm her opinion. For some reason a book on badgers keeps appearing next to Nabokov’s Lolita notebook—no one has yet dared to check it out.

Chelsea - Between the Sheets shelf
Between the Sheets display

Rob Symmonds, Lending Librarian and Daniel Jeffreys, Customer Services Assistant

Chelsea Library

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Haunted libraries…

It might sound like a leg-pull, but you do realise that the library that you visit is haunted, don’t you? No? Then read on…

 Let’s start with the oldest library in the borough, North Kensington. Built at the turn of the nineteenth century, this old building has seen a lot, and remembers a lot too. I myself have experienced events that are hard to ascribe to anything other than paranormal activity, doors opening and slamming shut by themselves and lights turning themselves back on whilst locking up the building. I kid you not… and these shenanigans would invariably occur in the winter months, when the nights draw in and the shadows appear to run from themselves. When most of the other staff have already made for the tube or the bus and you are alone…or so you believe.

North Kensington Library, sometime in the 1890s
North Kensington Library, sometime in the 1890s
North Kensington Library, June 1935
North Kensington Library, June 1935

Then there is Chelsea library, based as it is in the Old Town Hall. An old building again and one that seems to harbour its share of denizens of the unknown. How about hearing footsteps in the basement stacks and expecting to see a colleague appear but…nobody does. Or what about a sighing and whispering voice said to have been heard, again in the basement area. Spooky stuff, oh yes!

Chelsea Old Town Hall
Chelsea Old Town Hall

Even here at Central library you might feel the goosebumps rise if you were to go down to the stacks buried deep in the basement of the library. That feeling that, although you know you are the only human present in the area, tells you that you are not alone. Somebody else is there with you…

Kensington Central Library, black & white
Kensington Central Library

 All of the above could of course just be a work of fiction, a load of old rubbish dreamt up by an overactive imagination.

 Well, keep telling yourself that dear readers…