How two young men are changing the library scene in Sheffield

Two young men are trying to change people’s views that a library is a ‘boring place for old people’ with ambitious plans to expand one of Sheffield’s newest facilities.
L-R: Basil Griffith Library managers Macole Lannaman and John Kamara, pictured with volunteer Yuanshuo DuL-R: Basil Griffith Library managers Macole Lannaman and John Kamara, pictured with volunteer Yuanshuo Du
L-R: Basil Griffith Library managers Macole Lannaman and John Kamara, pictured with volunteer Yuanshuo Du

John Kamara and Macole Lannaman, aged 27 and 23 respectively, are the managers of the Basil Griffith Library, based in the Sadacca on the Wicker.

Earlier this year, The Star told how the library opened in an attempt to better engage the black community with reading and it has proven to have worked, with ‘a lot more people’ getting involved.

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John said: “The engagement is better but it can still be improved.”

Basil Griffith Library's next event, A Christmas Story-timeBasil Griffith Library's next event, A Christmas Story-time
Basil Griffith Library's next event, A Christmas Story-time

Although many libraries across the region are closing due to lack of funding, the Basil Griffith Library is thriving, so much so, that it’s name will soon be changing to Library of Life.

John explained how the library was initially ‘just an idea’ but he now has ‘a positive feel about it’.

Despite being a library that stocks books not otherwise found in other libraries in Sheffield, Basil Griffith is continuing with the idea of not being a typical one.

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He said: “We are striving to be a library that is unique. Something different.”

John added: “Through this project I have met so many people. One of the best things is seeing people develop and being more confident in their skills.”

While comics like that of the Black Panther currently appear to be the most popular type of reading material, the library - which celebrated its first birthday last month - regularly welcomes a range of different people.

Children visit to learn how to read, university students go to seek resources for their dissertation projects, while others simply like to use the space as ‘a form of therapy’.

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A range of different activities and events are also on offer, for example, a discussion group and children’s reading groups.

John explained that more activities would be offered in the upcoming future and it is hoped that the library will be able to expand it’s opening hours next year, to be ‘consistent with the times’.

He said: “We are looking at making the library more sustainable and offering different classes. Yoga, cooking, meditation, cocktail making, maths and creative writing.”

In addition, John wants to grow the educational aspect that the library offers, by creating its own educational content.

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He explained: “One of our goals is to change the British curriculum.

“To increase awareness and acknowledgement of knowledge in a more balanced and holistic view.

“In school, children are taught about World War One but there is a lack of knowledge about the viewpoints from other countries in the commonwealth.

“We only hear the British viewpoints.”

John, who teaches maths himself, believes that taking such content into schools would educate children about recent history and they would be able to see how it has contributed to the diversity of society today.

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Macole added: “We are also looking at creating content in the fields of pop culture, sports and fashion. It is about making it more interesting and capturing their imagination.”

Macole believes that the success of the library may be due to the fact that Basil Griffith is not what people might expect it to be.

He said: “I like being part of a project that is helping the community. Doing something good and impacting the community.”

“We want to revive the perception of a library and what it can be. We want people to see a different side,” Macole added.

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Having initially met in an Apple store, John and Macole have now been able to grow their contacts.

They have also attracted 40 volunteers to work with them, ranging from secondary students to international university students.

Volunteers hail from Hungary, China, India, Romania and the Caribbean.

Yuanshuo Du, aged 24, has been a volunteer since September and values the skills he’s learned and the friends he’s made from taking part.

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Volunteers are an important part of Basil Griffith Library because the operation of it relies on donations raised through fundraising events.

John and Macole have ambitious plans for the library and are currently in talks with Sheffield Council to see if they can secure more funding.

Although the library has helped the black community become more engaged with reading and education, they believe that even more would get involved in the future, when more activities are on offer.

The library’s next event will be A Christmas Story-time on December 14.

For more information about Basil Griffith Library, see Facebook.

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