It would appear that someone at The Independent is firmly stuck in the past. A fellow member of staff brought my attention to an article in today’s Indie, and managed to irritate me beyond belief. The article follows statements by Andy Burnham regarding the future of libraries. The article is awash with dismay over the move to allow library users to eat, drink and, heaven forbid, actually talk. Interestingly, they talk about the ‘silence rule’– a concept that is completely alien to either myself or just about any other person I have encountered who works in a public library. There is also criticism of the fact that libraries have computers, principally because, apparently, nearly everyone has a PC with internet connection (although little comment is made about whether people can actually use this resource effectively). There was even an odd little statement like this:
“The clientele is bound to consist mostly of “regulars”, if the library is open only two days a week between 10am and 4pm.”
I will be amazed if there were any town centre libraries that were only open between 10-4pm. The norm, certainly in my authority, is 9-6pm and even, in some cases, 9-8pm. And ‘two days a week’??? Where is this mythical library??? Perhaps someone at the Indie ought to visit one.
As well as the ill-informed nonsense from the ‘journalist’, there are the usual ignorant comments posted on the website. Seriously, I am beginning to doubt whether this idea of putting comments under articles is actually a good idea. It seems to be nothing more than an excuse to post the first thing that pops into their head. If these people have their way, the public library would be nothing more than a physical manifestation of all that was bad about the 1950s. Time moves on, society changes, customers needs change. Libraries must, therefore, change. It is essential for their survival.
Now, I am not saying that Burnham is spot-on with all he says about the future of libraries, and I am not saying that his critics have it all wrong. However, one thing is for certain, things need to move forward. There should not be enforced silence (we don’t and it certainly isn’t noisy, despite what the critics might assume), there should be an attempt to make the library a cool place to hang out (being able to buy a coffee and flick through the paper would be a very positive move), there should be computers with internet access (isn’t the internet the primary information source, and aren’t libraries the primary conduit for information retrieval?) and, above all, the library should be open and welcoming to everyone, regardless of who they are. Elitism will kill the library service. Eradicating the old-fashioned perception of libraries might just save it.