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.