Regular visitors of the Idea Store in Bow have voiced concerns over the library café’s future, with many worried that the café could face permanent closure
After a year of closure, the Idea Store’s library reopened its doors to the public in mid-March this year. But its café, a popular community hub, has remained vacant since it closed over 18 months ago, much to the concern of residents.
According to resident and regular visitor of the library, Jane Downey, the absence of the café will have a negative impact on the community’s most vulnerable groups.
Downey said: ‘People who used to sit in the café during the daytime can now be seen sitting outside in the cold,’ due to restricted seating areas.
She added that the café is one of the main features that distinguish the Idea Store from other traditional libraries: ‘It is hugely important. They used to have a pensioners morning on Thursdays. It was always really crowded. I just feel that it’s a really important place for people to meet.’
The Idea Store opened in May 2002, with the aim to change traditional perceptions of libraries by creating spaces that foster social interaction.
The café became a community asset and, while it was a popular spot for locals of all ages to socialise, it was a particular favourite amongst the over 50’s community.
While sharing a similar opinion to Downey, another local resident who wishes to remain anonymous, added that the closure of the café could possibly jeopardise the future of the Idea Store altogether.
The resident said: ‘The real worry is that somebody could say: “Well, we’re not getting the library open as often because not as many people are using it”, and that could be because people who used to go to the café aren’t coming in.’
Tower Hamlets Council claims that a final decision regarding the future of the café remains inconclusive.
A member of the council said: ‘We are currently looking at the best use of space across all our sites and where there is no demand for a café and it is not financially viable then a decision will have to be taken as to whether that space can be better used.’
While the future of the café remains unknown, one resident believes that the removal of the café would undermine the council’s commitment to vulnerable members of the community.
‘There are kids who are at school who do not have the luxury of having their own private bedroom to do their homework in. If it (the library) gets closed down in the evenings, where are they going to study?’
If you liked this, then check out our photo essay of café life on Roman Road.
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