I’ve abandoned it all right
Posted August 3, 2007on:
Last week Matt at Variety of Words blogged about his unfortunate experience at his local library. It’s a shame I hadn’t caught it then because I would have posted about it sooner and fully supported his sentiments. (It would matter so much, of course.) My local “library” has more or less turned into a community centre that happens to have books on the stacks. To my conservative, intolerant eye once a library needs a quiet room something has gone terribly wrong. (It should be the other way around — group rooms for people who need to speak at reasonable volumes.)
It’s clear to me that the local librarians see things differently. When I try to do my work at any study carrel it is them as often as anyone else who are speaking with what I like to call “cafeteria voices”, as if the government periodicals are 20 feet away from whatever location they happen to be in. Cell phone abuse is rampant regardless of age. Lessons are held right by the study carrels. (When I lived in Jamaica my tutor and I had lessons at the parish library but it was at group tables and we whispered as softly as possible; it’s not hard.) One has to do a smell check before going anywhere near them anyway, and hope that one’s neighbours are giggly teenagers instead of certain regulars who use the place as a home-away-from-home complete with dozens of grocery bags filled with three meals and assorted newspapers (?).
Quiet reading room? The park benches outside. (Seriously those spots are at any given time quieter than inside the library.) Keep in mind that the situation I describe is not during summer but early spring — the last time I went there before giving up and making the longer walk to campus.
Many persons are simply thrilled that the place is being used. I can’t ignore the benefits that the users are obviously reaping from the library, what with the high computer use and the growing ESL and Chinese books section. There’s still a book club and things have not deteriorated to the point that the place is hosting band practice (yet). Napping homeless people don’t bother me much — they’re quiet. And you can’t beat the offer of free books. I would sign a petition for it to get more government funding, or give a donation, just don’t ask me to go there.
It’s only made it clearer to me that whatever town I reside in must have a university, where the concept of what a library is has not disappeared. If you’re not student or faculty you have to pay for membership, but one can always pick up the books from the happening community spot and go to campus to read undisturbed. Mine has an excellent fiction collection and access to two other university libraries. And Starbucks, maligned as it is, never kicks out customers if they aren’t sitting with a frappuccino.