Today I finally took the time to check out the public library here in Seville. I have been coming here for around six years now and, until now, I had never been (not helped by the fact that my wife – a Sevilliana – didn’t know where it was!). So I decided to have a look around and see the similarities and differences with my library back home (which is perhaps unfair as this is one of the largest cities in Spain), particularly in terms of layout and facilities.
After obligingly dumping our bags in the lockers provided, we took a stroll into the main library area. One of the things that struck me straight away was how clean everything looked. This was perhaps helped by the fact that the fixtures and fittings were all white (which is presumably a requirement given the fact that Seville hits the 40° mark in the height of summer). Back home, we have wooden shelving that probably dates from around the 60s. Although, this is an unfair comparison due to where the library is situated. It certainly looked quite impressive on first glance, with plenty of seating, as well as a variety of newspapers and magazines for the public.
There were also a couple of things I noticed that are part of what we are currently trying to achieve in our library. Firstly, the general shelving. For a long time, our shelves have been jam-packed with stock that barely shifts. There has been a general reluctance to weed stock effectively and this has had a knock-on effect with presentation standards. As a result of a major re-organisation we have managed to get our shelves to be a little more spacious and, consequently, making it easier for users to find the books that they want. We have particularly tried to keep top shelves free wherever possible to enable us to present front-facing stock, as well as ensure that as much stock as possible is within easy reach of the borrower. Although our shelves don’t quite look like those pictured from the public library in Seville, the layout is not entirely dis-similar.
As well as the shelving, I also noticed that they had one main desk for dealing with new joins, issues and discharges. I am of the belief that, from a customer point of view, this is preferable to the layout at my current library of a main desk at one side of the library with an attached enquiry desk, and a reception desk near the front door. Personally, I believe this leads to confusion as a member of the public unfamiliar with the layout is not really sure where to go. The reception desk deals only with issuing library cards, the enquiry desk with ordering (as well as the obvious!) and the counter deals with issuing and discharging. Meaning that should a customer wish to join, take out some books and order a book, s/he would need to approach three different desks, each time being re-directed. Not exactly an efficient service.
Finally, and most surprising, was the difference regarding public access PCs. Due to my particular interest in the digital divide and access to information, I was surprised to see only ten computer terminals in the public area that were for general use (ie not simply for the library catalogue). This surprised me because we have as many in our library, and yet our library is significantly smaller. In contrast to my library, there was no children’s terminal in the children’s area whatsoever (although the children’s library did look quite good – if a little sterile with all the white). I’m not sure if this is because computer terminals were trialled and were not overly successful, or whether there hasn’t been the will (or financial capability) to install computer terminals. Whatever the reasoning, it was a little odd to see that a large public library, within one of the largest cities in Spain, has such limited internet provision.
Anyway, having completed my mission to visit the local public library, I can now enjoy the rest of my holiday and forget about libraries for a while longer. I’ve got some sun to catch and some beer to drink!