Bethnal Green library helped us win the war. Don't let a pandemic close it

When German bombs crashed through its roof, the London library moved underground, providing books – and escapism – for children during air raids. Now the 99-year-old landmark is facing closure

When it opened, it stood as a beacon of hope for east Londoners, and became the scene of one of the second world war’s great resistance stories. But as Bethnal Green library approaches its 100th birthday, the celebrations have been put on ice. For this week, council leaders in east London are set to decide its future. This symbol of working-class defiance during the blitz may end up a shadow of its former self.

As a historical novelist, I wonder how many of the people wielding the axe know anything about the remarkable backstory of the building and those within it, who ensured that, even in the darkest of times, working-class East Enders had access to books?

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