Thursday, June 3, 2010

Be careful what you wish for... IMHO

Making libraries more accessible to all, by allowing the use of mobile phones, eating and drinking, no shushing, no need to be a member, etc seems like the current management style in many libraries (not just us) but it comes at a price.

We now have gangs of young people milling around, fighting, tearing each other's hair out, screaming, giggling, etc. Did the plan include losing the peaceful sanctuary of the old-fashioned library?

The parallel for me remains old churches. As a lifelong atheist I still enjoy the peace of churches and cathedrals (especially when travelling) as places to think, contemplate or meditate - although I could do without the images of torment that seem so popular in the West. I mention churches, however, precisely because even I (doomed heretic though I am) respect the atmosphere generated by years of respect for the space. I take off my hat, I don't do flash photography, etc.

If we sacrifice the 'atmosphere of respect for learning' that libraries traditionally have, then perhaps we drive away the previous users, in exchange for people who have no real use for what we offer.

If libraries no longer offer sanctuary and peace, where can a quiet person now go, when in town? The park, maybe?

Of course, being 'currently fashionable management style' means we may well reverse this approach somewhere in the future, but it could prove hard to reclaim the pleasant atmosphere of mutual respect after this foray into popularism.

Eating, drinking, running and screaming in the library - next thing you know they'll be allowing singing in church. Oh, wait...

This feels more like trying to attract people to church by having rock concerts.

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