Libraries

When I was young I used to enjoy visits to libraries, they were a place of refuge.  Peaceful, quiet, a nice atmosphere, the smell of books.  And I enjoyed reading.

Now  .it's all changed.

My local library ( as have most of the libraries in the city)      has been refurbished and renamed a community hub.

Now there are few books, .lots of computers, uniformed security guards, meeting rooms, help and advice experts on council services, jobs & benefits.  And finally the local post office has closed down and moved into this library itself.

On one side of the room there is a bookcase and next to it a queue of people using the post office.

I miss the old traditional libraries. With wooden bookshelves, books, a librarian and cardboard library tickets in books with dated stamps.

  • That’s a shame ~ come to live where I live, our library still has some wooden bookshelves although no cardboard library tickets, but it’s a great place to go. I go to do my work there as I tend to be able to focus better when I’m out of my home environment and I’ve always loved libraries so I often go to simply sit, browse books or some of the magazines they have there, or to use the computer. Our main library has lots of great talks going on and lots of great info as to what’s going on in the town, as well. 

    Our local library is small compared to the main library in town and it’s not open as often as it’s run by volunteers and they don’t have enough of them to be open all day every day, but it’s still a great place to go. 

    I also found a quite spot in one of our big churches. They have a little quite area where you can just sit and be quiet or read or whatever and I was told that I’m more than welcome to use that spot whenever I want. I’ve found a couple of cafes/coffee shops  as well where I can get to sit quietly and read or whatever. 

  • I know what you mean, Robert.  Unfortunately, it's the times we live in, with cutbacks in local authority spending priorities.  Libraries have had to 'diversify' in order to survive.  The library in the small town where I live still focuses on books - but they're being increasingly elbowed out.  Several years ago, the Reference room was converted into an office for the Registrar of Births and Deaths, and all the reference works - Enycyclopedia Britannica, dictionaries, Debrett's, thesauruses, atlases, etc - got dumped.  So much of that stuff is available online now.  I love poring over atlases - but how are they to compete with the more immersive experience of Google Earth?  About half of the library is given over to adult fiction and non-fiction, but with the inevitable focus on popular titles.  The children's section takes up roughly a quarter.  The rest of it is display cases, computer terminals, DVDs and CDs.

    I don't know what the figures are now, but I know that 'reading books' has for a long time been a declining activity with the advent of the internet, computer gaming, Kindles, etc. Everyone hoped there would be a renaissance in children's reading with the popularity of the Harry Potter books, but surveys I've seen - conducted by Library Services - indicate that children are less inclined to read books now than ever.  It's very sad.  But there are so many other demands and distractions for them.  Sad, too, that so many even older people think things like Winnie The Pooh and Mary Poppins are Disney creations.

    I occasionally pop over to my local university library, which is huge and has large 'Quiet Spaces'.  Even there, though, you get people talking and making other noises.

    As a kid, I loved the hush and reverence of a library.  They were places to escape to.  Now, as you say, they're more like community centres or shopping malls.

  • I like the way libraries were: as you say, a place of refuge. When I was a child I was taught to be quiet in a library (even the village library which did not have room for studying). Indeed, if the librarians considered someone was making too much noise they were asked to be quiet or leave. And that is how I believe it should have been and how it should be now.

    My local library even has a group for babies. I found that out by walking into the library one day to be met with clapping, singing, shouting, crying, etc. I did not stay long. I cannot see how anyone can think that a group for babies is compatible with a library.

    I suspect no impact assessments were done when libraries were turned into community centres. Where are the replacement places of quiet and reflection? Those of us with a need for quiet had our rights trampled over.

    If you have plenty of money and live close/fairly close to London then the London Library sounds a good option. Unfortunately, I do not have plenty of money but I dream of being able to afford membership one day. The London Library's rules contain a section entitled 'Consideration for others' and includes these rules:

    Members should show due consideration for others when making use of the Library’s facilities, observing the need for quiet in all areas adjacent to reader desks and treating fellow members, visitors and staff with courtesy at all times, including staff discharging their duty to enforce the Library’s Rules. If the use of personal equipment of any kind disturbs other users, members may be asked to stop using it or to move to another location.

    Laptops and mobile devices may be used in silent mode for the processing or transmission of text or data except in the main Reading Room, where tablet and e-reader devices may be used for silent reading only and the use of all other electronic communication devices including personal audio equipment is prohibited. Even where the use of such equipment is permitted, sound reproduction must be limited to personal headphones and not broadcast by speaker.

    I obviously expect too much by expecting such rules to be in force in all libraries.

  • I love libraries too. We have three -  one is walking distance and two are a short drive. They are all of the book-filled variety. I remember the one down the road when I lived 'oop north' - I spent hours in there as a four year old hoovering up knowledge and data. I loved the non-fiction area - loads of things about planes, cars, trains, animals, buildings and some were filled with colourful pictures (this was the late 60s)

    I could never see the point of story books - I'd have to read hundreds of pages with no technical data - why? I think I've only read a small number because it seemed to be a lot of effort with little return.

  • Libraries of old were often a bit intimidating I think.  Some of our Dorset Libraries are community hubs and offer other services but we still have plenty of books! All staff have autism awareness training and two of our libraries have autism rooms which can be reserved, or used informally. these have dimmable lights and soft furnishings as well as muted colours and provide a quieter space if people need it. 

    We always have quieter spaces for people where possible and staff are available to chat or help. We employ people with autism too and offer volunteering to young people with all kinds of disabilities. 

    Hope you like the picture!

    old library

  • A post office in a library. What a bizarre idea.

    Although I like reading, I've always found libraries quite overwhelming places. Too much choice maybe? I'm also not very good at finding things. Even in a really logical system I can't find what I'm looking for.

    I also don't like really quiet places. Although busy and loud is too much for me. I find silence really unsettling. I like background noise. The only place I read is in my bed.

    It is a shame though, for those that did enjoy visiting the library that they have changed so much.