Here’s another old newspaper cutting featuring someone called John Rimmer, this time it is actually about me. This comes from a copy of the Psychic News of October 12, 1985 (a glimpse of the era is given by the main headline: ‘Brixton riots fail to stop church service’) given to me by Geraldine Beskin of the incomparable Atlantis Bookshop in Museum Street, London. (If you’re in London, go there and buy a book, that’s an order!).

The picture shows me in the cellar of the library where I used to work, posing in front of the ASSAP Library, which comprised about 2000 book on a variety of Fortean and paranormal topics, as well as runs of about thirty magazines. Most of the books were donated by two or three generous bibliophiles, and the magazines collected from a variety of sources.

Psychic News‘s intrepid reporter Deniz Huseyin begins his report: “I have just returned from a fascinating psychic library featuring many aspects of the paranormal … and it is housed in a public library…” He describes the library’s situation as “resembling a hidden vault”, which was a pretty fair description.

The idea was that the collection would be made available to researchers, either in person at the library, or, in the long-term through the public library inter-lending system. The whole thing was operated on a shoestring. Apart from the (admittedly pretty generous) free use of a redundant cellar, the library authority did not contribute anything, and very few people made use of its facilities. I suppose the suburbs of London are not accessible to everyone, but it was not exactly Outer Mongolia.

But some researchers did make the trek to deepest Purley, and others borrowed books by post. I seem to recall that cryptozoologist Karl Shuker made good use of library materials in researching one of his books.

Eventually however, the local authority demanded the space back for its own use. A new central library was being built and they needed space to store a lot of displaced volumes. Some of the material was returned to the donors, and the rest moved, I believe, to London University, where it shared space with the Harry Price Library. It moved on from there, and I’m not sure what happened next - do any of you know? Now it seems the Harry Price Library itself may be under threat, as universities morph from centres of learning to profit centres.

Such a contrast to the situation is Sweden, where the active AFU group runs an extensive library of UFO and Fortean literature in three specially converted premises with active support from the Swedish Government. They have received grants for storage units from the Swedish National Archives, and the government’s employment ministry helps pay for cataloguers and clerical staff as part of their 'workfare' programme. Can’t see it happening here, can you?

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