Getting lost in a good book is great for learning, mental wellbeing and a constructive way to pass time. We caught up with our volunteer librarian, Andrew Arthur, to tell us more about the library project he has been leading at SIFA Fireside.

Andrew shared the above photographs, the one to the left, taken 60 years ago, as a Merchant Navy Officer (not a prison mugshot) and the second, of him now.

“My name is Andrew Arthur and I have been a client at SIFA Fireside for just over two years, attending mainly for breakfast, the occasional lunch and, where needed, for clothing. During this time, I became well acquainted with the staff and have been treated incredibly.
“On one visit, I was invited to join the Client Forum – of which I am now Secretary – and during my first meeting, I noticed the room we were in was full of books. This inspired me to start the library project, from sourcing the right shelving to organising and classifying the books. 

“As you can see, we have fiction, filed under the first three letters of the author’s surname. You won’t find a Mills and Boon in sight though!
“For non-fiction, I am working on specific sections, such as music, poetry, cookery, travel and biographies. There is space on each shelf as it is hoped that once the library is functional, readers will be encouraged to donate more books. 

“To me there is nothing better than getting lost in a good book – especially a sea story! One author that stands out in my mind is Neville Shute’s two-page description of a sunset that was written in such a way I could almost see it front of my eyes. 

“Although I qualified as a Science Teacher, over the years I have organised many school libraries and Resource Centres. During my time as a geological librarian in a large mining house in Johannesburg, we had to wear gloves when handling beautifully bound and valuable volumes. This experience saw my love for books increase. 

“I like having a routine and structure to my day, along with using my time to help others and give something back. Over the years, I have experienced hard times and a little kindness from others really does go a long way.
“The team here at SIFA Fireside are incredible. They are like a family. When lockdown was imminent, I was advised of my vulnerability (I am 77 years young!), so special arrangements were made for me to have breakfast as I have no cooking facilities in my present accommodation. 

“The staff know everybody by name and can easily anticipate any latent problems that may occur as well as providing essential services. During the lockdown I was also given an emergency food parcel and received regular phone calls to check I was safe and well.
“I can’t praise the team enough and I know that I and many others wouldn’t be able to get by without them and the services they provide. The library is something I can give back, not just to other clients but also the staff.
“Once the COVID 19 restrictions have been lifted and we are able to open, the books will be available for issue so any clients coming in can borrow a book. I hope it gives others a way to pass time in a positive and enjoyable way.”

SIFA Fireside is registered in England & Wales under charity number 1049728 and company number 3094905 at 48-52 Allcock Street, Birmingham B9 4DY. We use cookies to improve your experience using this website. To learn more, read our privacy policy.
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