According to this article, which was published in the Bromley & District Times, 1918, it took a female librarian’s initiative to move the books shelves up a notch or two in order to stop readers overlooking the variety of titles stored on the lower shelves.
Even back in 1918 libraries were seen as important assets to the community
“The large increase in the number of users of the Public Library, is good evidence of its value to the community in these days when intelligent recreation is sought in relief of the strenuous life we are living”
The public library was built after the land and house on the original site ‘Neelgherries’ was left to Bromley Town for “education and learning” purposes by Emily Dowling following her death in 1900. In 1906 the Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated £7,500 for a new library in Bromley and this was erected on the site of Neelgherries. The library and Churchill theatre complex we know today in Bromley was built on the site in the 1970s and opened by Prince Charles in 1977.
The Public Library
It has remained for a Lady Librarian to initiate a very practical improvement at Bromley Public Library.
From the day the Carnegie Library, which we believe is the strictly correct title, was opened, the public have suffered, and large numbers of books been more or less overlooked and left unread through the inaccessibility of the bottom shelves of the book stands in the Home Reading Department. That is to say, there are but the footings of the book stands between them and the floor level.
By economising in one section space between the tops of the books and the shelves immediately above, it became possible to lift the last row of books to a height where the titles could be seen and read without having to go “on the knee” to do so. We hope that Miss Tilley will persevere with this good work.
If she does the muttered objurgations of that percentage of readers who really try to know what is on those lowest shelves will merge into complacency, and it will be as if a large addition had been made to the already fine selection of works in all departments of literature which the Library possesses, and of which the borough is justly proud.
The large increase in the number of users of the Public Library, where the number was always considerable, is good evidence of its value to the community in these days when intelligent recreation is sought in relief of the strenuous life we are living, and it might be a useful hint to readers who mostly use Section 1, that they would find an enormous amount of interesting reading on the other shelves they commonly pass by.
Source: Bromley & District Times, 12th July 1918, page 4.