My friend Len Barron, who has died of double pneumonia aged 63, was an inspirational part of the Hillingdon Library community in west London and worked at Harefield Library for 27 years. Len inspired many people, especially children, with his love of reading, poetry and the arts. He formed the Harefield poetry group and was a prolific poet himself.
He started working for Hillingdon Libraries as a library assistant in 1993, mainly based in the village of Harefield. Len could have easily been a manager or librarian but he was passionate about being on the frontline. He established a love of reading in generations of Harefield children, through work with the local school next door, teaching them chess, greeting them in the library after school and helping them with their homework.
When I became the manager at Harefield Library in 2010, Len generously introduced me to all the key figures in the local community, and offered to take on a new project. He established the Harefield poetry group in 2010 and made poetry accessible for people who always thought it was too difficult, or highbrow, or just didn’t get it. He instilled a love and understanding of poetry and the arts in a patient, understanding and completely unpatronising way. That was a true gift.
Len was the person you called on whenever you had any questions about classics, literature, Latin or poetry. The amount of information, including exact dates, that he could recall off the top of his head was astounding. He tirelessly took on any project to do with promoting literature and the arts.
The youngest of three brothers, Len was born in Perivale, west London, to Leonard Barron, a storekeeper, and Elizabeth (nee Crouch), a housewife. He went to Eliots Green grammar school in Northolt, leaving during fifth form. Len’s father died when he was 14 and his mother died when he was 17. He lived in the family home until the house had to be sold, leaving him homeless at the age of 22.
He was taken in by his friends Keith and Cath while grappling with what to do with his life. Cath, a teacher, encouraged him to get his English A-level at the age of 23, and that started a lifelong love affair with the English language. He then carried on to get a first in English literature and American studies at Warwick University, and further on to Thames Valley University to gain his master’s degree in librarianship.
Len was an incredibly generous friend, work colleague and member of the village community. Hillingdon council is hoping to set up a Len Barron Poetry award in his honour.
He is survived by his brothers, Brian and John.