I know what you’re thinking: “But Janet, libraries are MEANT to be quiet!”
While that was certainly the truth back in the 1970s (our school librarian may have had to “SHUSH” me quite a few times for talking too much!), these days it’s a very different story.
I’m well acquainted with how libraries work; I volunteered as a library monitor in Year 9, and managed our church library for a couple of years back in the day.
Back in the noughties I even went “pro”, working as a library assistant. By that stage, your standard public library had evolved from being so quiet that all you could hear was the whir of the fans, to becoming a veritable hive of community activity.
No longer was it just a place for quiet reading and study; at times it got pretty noisy, especially during toddler story time!
It had become much more than a place where you could borrow books, magazines, CDs, DVDs and the like.
The library hosted a range of activities, from classes in how to use a computer or speak a foreign language, to a chess club and Scrabble group, the local Genealogy society, school holiday crafts, movie nights, and just after I left, they even opened a coffee shop. (Sacrilege to the purists – what if people left coffee stains on the precious books?!)
How things have changed in a generation!
Back when I worked at the library, our peak times were always Saturday mornings, Monday mornings and school holidays.
So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into my old workplace on Saturday morning, to discover that it was practically a ghost town.
I couldn’t help but wonder WHY the library was so quiet! What has changed so much in the past fifteen years?!
- Perhaps people are still wary of using libraries thanks to Covid?
- Maybe it’s because we are just 5 weeks out from Christmas – so every man and his dog was at the shops (or that’s what it felt like when I had to pick up a few groceries afterwards, it was crazy busy!).
- It could be that people download books onto their electronic device these days, instead of going to the library (something I’m resisting – I stare at computer screens all day for work, the last thing I want to do is look at one when I’m relaxing and reading for pleasure!)
- Or maybe reading is no longer a popular pastime?
A couple of years ago our local library underwent a major refurb (not shown here – these are all old photos), and part of me can’t help but wonder if that has impacted the levels of patronage.
The big circulation desk is gone, as everything is pretty much automated. Books are returned by placing them on shelves near the entrance, and are automatically checked in – and it’s self-service when it comes to checking out items as well.
If you were picking up an item that you’d placed on “hold”, it was kept behind the service counter and the staff had to retrieve it for you. Again, that’s now a self-service area.
When I think of the hours I spent checking items in and out (and the RSI I got from it) … I can’t help but wonder what library assistants actually do these days!
How’s thing in your local library lately?!