The Nottingham Road library began in a cupboard outside the Farmers Hall in 1930. “People just helped themselves, but soon the cupboard was overflowing and it moved into a room in the Farmer’s Hall and the Women’s Institute took it over” Hazel Monk tells me. “We are privately run, very casual and all the better for it” she adds.
Hazel is a regular volunteer at the Notties Library (one of 20) and has been a member of the local Woman’s Institute (WI) for 40 years. WI is very supportive of this little library, as is the Nottingham Road Landowners Association. Rose Baldock has been involved since she was a little girl and long-time resident Annie Hayhoe is the backbone of the library. The library is open three mornings a week (Sue Moller keeps things ticking over smoothly) and has a surprisingly good array of books. “We get new books from the Natal Provincial Library every three months and book clubs regularly give us books they no longer want.” Sue tells me. “We understand that it is difficult for country folk to get to the village regularly, so don’t charge fines on late returns. We simply ask for a donation.” To illustrate their story, at that moment a woman arrives with a book, saying “A very tall lady at Church asked me to return this book for her. I don’t know who she is but she said it is overdue and gave me a donation for you.” Pop the money in the box is the cheerful reply as they skim through the cards to work out who the original borrower was. Enchanted by this approach, the errand runner (who is new to the area) fills in a membership form and pays her R20 joining fee – for life!
Vera Cekwane checks out her selection. “I enjoy coming here every week to get new books, love stories or action. I usually take Zulu books too. We are lucky to have a library close by.” Actor, John Cleese is a member, having joined during the filming of Spud. The volunteer that day had no idea who he was and asked him to spell his name a couple of times. Only afterwards, did someone make the connections. It is all too quaint for words, a delightful taste of authentic country life.