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The Pevensey Bay Journal edition 18, is published this week, to all our digital subscribers this Thursday 24 May. In local newsagents, priced 40pence, in the next few days. The Journal pays tribute to our librarian Iwona and tells the story of the girl with the hajib in the Wallsend Road. Subscriptions to digital edition £6:50 (ten issues) here info@pevenseybaylife.co.uk


Iwona, the librarian and the girl with the hajib in the Wallsend Road

Think Tuesday was the day. Must have been after four in the afternoon. Iwona had been serving customers in her relaxed efficient style, always looking out for new people wanting to renew their books, just talk, or in need of a welcome when they came through the doors of the library.

They say that customer service is everything and that you should always greet people when they come into your shop. Iwona did not have customers, just alot of friends.

People utilising local libraries are not customers however much East Sussex County Council want to pretend that they know something about business or services to local communities.

The more the language is bent into East Sussex County Council shape, the more the language is distorted into something akin to what George Orwell called double speak.

Councillor Carl Maynard said at the East Sussex County Council meeting that closed Pevensey Bay library that there is no magic money tree. Three days later the Government found £4 billion to pay NHS staff.

He made the point twice. That is East Sussex County Council doublespeak.

Alongside the small queue, and my question about latest information with the library, was the girl in the hajib.

She must have been about nine, a regular amongst us with her hard working business family here in the Bay.

There was a pause, Iwona asked her about her homework, how she had been and enquired about the fact that she had not been there for three weeks.

A bundle of energy, excitement, interest and enthusiasm, the girl talked about friends, what she had been doing and her family.

“The books I saved for you are by the radiator”, Iwona said as she served another person.

The girl in the hajib skipped over to the radiator in the kids section.

Iwona, still thinking about my questions, called over the girl, “not that radiator, this one here.”

“The three books are reserved for you” she said and, without missing a beat “and of course you still have two books do you not”.

There was something so simple and managed and natural about the way that Iwona talked that she could make someone feel relaxed or interested in being in the library just by being there.

In another life she would have been a teacher, social worker, church vicar or airline pilot.

But Iwona was our librarian and that is why every day that we walked in that precious shared space that was our local library, we felt we were going to our own educational church or school or cathedral to the community.

Our local library was our shared space, a social space to us all to be engaged with our educational interest, our imagination and our plans and hopes and dreams.

The disgrace that East Sussex County Council has chosen to close our local library is something that will stay as a stain on their character.

The girl in the hajib found her books, out tumbled the books that she wanted to return from her satchel. In went the new books and as she bounced out of the library. Engaged in her own journey of eduction and information and entertainment she headed to the steps, left and went towards the Wallsend Road.

As she went on her way, there was a lovely wave and thought for her, something to remember so simple, that like her stamped library, book would stay with her until the next time.

“See you soon” said Iwona.

We will see her soon as well, because the light that comes from the Pevensey Bay Library will remain undimmed. and the girl in the hajib will be welcome back soon. She will bounce back brightly through the door renewing her library books with stories of school her friends and her family.

And Iwona will be back one day as well, perhaps just to visit to say hello.

Somewhat overwhelmed with Polish pride by the flowers that were given to her the day before the local library closed on May 4, she held her hands to her face and said “gosh how lovely, thank you so much”.

As she held the flowers close to her heart she said “Pevensey Bay Library feels like my home, I have loved being here”.

That is because Pevensey Bay Library was your home Iwona, and a home that you made home for every one of the people that came to utilise the library.

A home from home for us all, shared space, a social space and the cathedral of our dreams and aspirations and hopes for our lives and a space most importantly with a public purpose.

This is notion of purpose that stretches back to 1652 and first such endeavour in this country in Oxford, the Coffee House Penny University.

Our public library will continue because you can not dim a light that comes from our shared sense of public space and lending, any more than you can dim the light from a book that has changed your world for ever.

And the girl in the hajib in the Wallsend Road will be back as well to renew her faith in her friends and family and in her shared hope and to have her next book stamped, to return her books and take out new books that she will stuff into her satchel.

What would not be a surprise on the day would be to discover that the three books she wanted have already been reserved for her and are sitting there already for her to collect.

Not by the radiator at the back in the kids section, but the radiator behind the place where people come in, behind the space where the librarian Iwona stood with her smile and hello and simple, thoughtful words in the place she called home.