Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tatiesque PlayTime

I went on media silence, as I didn't want to pre-empt the media coverage, or tempt the fates for our Central Library opening day on March 14th.

As it happened that first Saturday went very well, with a huge flood of visitors to the see the new building, and almost everything working.

Since then, however, the scenario has reminded me a little of a Jacques Tati movie. I don't normally identify with Luddites (and nor did he really, let's face it, insisting on filming on 70 mm film, with stereo sound, etc) - but the nostalgia for human ways of doing things (of his character, Monsieur Hulot) still pervades libraries, and I look on with semi-detached bemusement. Both (older) staff and users often refer to the simplicity of a set of little cards in envelopes, and a rubber stamp. Obviously, there are some distinct advantages to catalogue and online searching, and tracking where items end up, using computers, but that is only true when everything works.
We have had so many new things set up at the same time and at the last minute, that teething troubles could be predicted (like the restaurant's grand opening in Playtime). When the book sorting is done by a Heath Robinson contraption (that then fails to work), or the lifts can't make up their mind whether to take you up first, or the other passenger down first, or to stop off or drop off people on the way (and when you step out of the lift there is no obvious number to tell you which floor you are at, I know it would have delighted M.Tati). He could just get on the cctv and catch the moment(s) when I step out of the lift, look around to read the big floor number on the wall behind me, do a double-take when I realise I am not on the floor I expected, and lunge to re-enter the lift as the doors close, and it zooms away.

And the wonderful Escheresque zig-zag of stairs does make stair access a rather long way around...again, the shortest distance between two points would have delighted him - that you can see your friend working on a floor below, and wave, but then have to figure out how to


Reminds me of the people on the railway station at the beginning of M.Hulot's Holiday - running from platform to platform in response to PA announcements announcing a change of plan - or Hulot confronted by the office maze.

And then we have the infinite range of furniture, of every kind of design and colour you can imagine - again, something Tati gently satirises quite frequently.

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