Libraries in UK Further Education: 1990s

Photo by Pixabay on

From the Sixth Form Centre, I moved further afield into an East London Further Education (FE) college.

Back then, FE colleges were engaged in merging many small local sites into larger, centralised colleges. I was Centre Librarian on a site that served A-level courses to students aged 16+ as well as adult education in a number of subjects, including motor mechanics, sports studies and travel.

The library held three OPAC computers (Online Public Access Catalogue, although not ‘online’ in today’s sense).

There were half a dozen computers running software for the travel agents’ courses and soon after my arrival another was added to access the internet on a dial-up connection.

A-Level Computing staff immediately set students an assignment on using the internet. Whatever internet facilities there were in computing labs were unavailable to students outside scheduled lessons.

Anyone who recalls the speed and unreliability of dial-up internet will be able to picture the mood of a computing student booked into a one-hour slot to research their internet assignment (due next week) when our fledgling online resource subscription refuses to load.

I got to know the roads of the area well from driving between cross-site meetings. I barely recognise them now when I drive through to visit eldest son in a neighbouring borough. One-way systems have changed, and today I would have no chance of finding parking near those sites that didn’t have car parks. (This was already a challenge back in the 1990s.).

Like most FE colleges, planning was under way to merge all sites in a new building, where Centre Librarians would become Subject Librarians. Groups of us were sent out to visit other Colleges that had recently upgraded, to get some ideas for our new library.

When land was purchased at the edge of the borough, staff were excited at the prospect of being closer to the city, but I wondered what would happen to all the evening classes and minority interests offered by local sites in a borough not well served by London Underground, and whose buses struggled to negotiate its narrow streets.

I wasn’t around to find out.

In my public library days, I had helped move a branch into a new building that I wasn’t involved in planning. Since then, I have a history of planning new libraries that I didn’t stay around to move into.

By the time this college moved into its new building, I had moved on.

Who remembers dial-up internet?

. . . and computers that lost the plot when you thought nothing was happening and tried to reload?

Next: Moving On

Copyright © Cathy Cade 2021

17 thoughts on “Libraries in UK Further Education: 1990s

    1. I got to visit them all though – which was interesting. It’s amazing how much of the discussions with architects seem to have never happened. (Although in one case there were underground river tributaries that complicated matters – especially for the basement archives that were planned.)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This post reminded me so much of teaching in the the early computer days. I taught fourth grade and by that time the Apple 2Es had become extinct (1990s). Every teacher had one in each classroom and were getting new computers. So I commandeered all the old Apples I could, and used them for my centers. Kids practiced their spelling words on them, wrote stories, but we didn’t have internet service in our classroom, so it was limited to what the old computers could do. The kids were thrilled to have them. What a different world just a few years ago. 🙂 Great post, Cathy. I love your library posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I know. I retired 9 years ago in August. Our lives have mirrored each other, it seems. And it’s been an easy adjustment to the new things – at least for me. It’s hard to imagine how we ever existed before getting information at the click of a finger. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I was sorry to see the disappearance of evening classes, I am grateful to the ladies at my local library who with infinite patience steered me through Clait courses to give me a working knowledge of computer use. Also to the evening classes at Ramsey Abbey that gave me the basic knowledge of website design. My desire to learn has been thwarted in recent years by the opportunity to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a lot online now, but actually turning out and interacting has a lot going for it. Most of the evening clases around my old patch are running in school buildings now – it brings them in a bit of spending cash (once the caretaker’s paid for his overtime).

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.