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.
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.