If nobody speaks of remarkable things (like libraries)

I saw a beautiful interaction in my local library today.

Firstly I’d like to say that libraries are the most wonderful places on earth. People can learn to cook, sew, use computers, get support for cancer, print things, read newspapers in Arabic, research their family history, and countless other things besides. There is nowhere in the world like libraries. Free, safe spaces for everyone to use. Such a beautiful thing.


A wee shot I took in a local library. I’m thinking about straddling my photographic background and my anthropological training in terms of ‘street’ photography, or covert picture-taking, more on that later on maybe…any thoughts in the meantime?

So anyway, I’m sitting reading some stuff about the importance of the everyday in social science research, talking about how it is in the everyday interactions with the world around us and the people, objects, places in it that life is made liveable, which resonates deeply with my work exploring how migrants in Glasgow make the city their home. A girl with long green hair comes in and sits down at some sofas in front of a table. A dad and his daughter come in and look around for a good place to sit where they will have enough space. The girl with the green hair sees them and offers them the space she’s sitting in. “I don’t mind, I’m only reading”. “Are you sure?” he says to her and she smiles and nods, telling him “I saw you here a couple of weeks ago and you were doing her homework”. He thanks her and they swap, father and daughter settling down at the end of the schoolday to get her homework done before they head home for tea and whatever it is they do on a Tuesday evening. He’s clearly tired but proud with each answer she works through.

No-one needs to say out loud how much these kinds of interactions matter. Well, maybe they do at some point, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now, but I think part of what is so valuable about them is that they just sort of happen, and it’s really lovely. If we all sat wherever we wanted, and paid no attention to the potential needs of those around us, responding to one another as humans, what would the world look like? Pretty miserable.

If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how will we ever know they are remarkable?

IMG_0923This book by Jon McGregor is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read – definitely recommended reading!

Seeing people regularly in places like libraries, and even just smiling at them and acknowledging some kind of recognition can go such a long way in making life in a place liveabe, whether you’ve just moved or lived there forever, growing feelings of familiarity with where you live and the people you share that place with, and even if we don’t forge really deep relationships with all of these people, one day we might, or just having more people to smile at around the place goes along way.

Anyway. I’ve been struggling recently, I’m all mixed up like coffee grains before they settle (there’s a post about this to come) but this small thing just reminded me of the importance of these mundane, everyday interactions with people and surroundings as a hugely vital part of the process of home-making. It also reiterated the need for a dialogue between the structural influences on our lives which looks at how our age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status are constructed, understood and consequently impact on our daily lives, and that small-scale, individual, subjective experience. Looking at one without the other gets us nowhere; we are just left with a narrow understanding of how things work, particularly in social research, and so it is in the everyday that we can see how these structural elements have an impact in the world.



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