Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Common Reader!

Last week while in Southwold I realised that I had lost a pair of shoes I had bought 2 days earlier in Norwich. I was gutted as I rarely buy anything new these days, shoes being an exception - not that I buy a lot of shoes but I don't buy those second hand - or foot). Returning via Norwich on Sunday I was amazed and delighted to track them down at the Forum (which houses Norwich's library). Why was I in the library in the first place? I'd gone to see the work of "Potter Jotter" who produces gorgeous pieces of pottery with some inspired by patchwork quilts. Her work was beautiful ....

I loved the new building and was thrilled to see that it housed the library. I always wanted to be a librarian (as opposed to a library assistant) and didn't make it due to my inability to stay the course at uni. This library was amazing with a huge collection of books, masses of computers, magazinesplaces to have a drink and full of people milling about. I've never seen so many people in a library. This was where I lost both myself and clearly my shoes for some time. I wandered and browsed and sat and wished I lived in Norfolk!

I'm a regular user of my own library and worked there voluntarily as a child of 13 for a while such was my desire to be surrounded by books. When I started work it was at a university library where I worked in the local history and special collections (full of fabulous old manuscripts and illuminated works - my idea of heaven). I stayed until my father persuaded me to get a proper job in the Civil Service with a pension. (Why did I let him do that?)

An article in "The Spectator" today states that 60% of adults have not visited a library in the last year. Much of this is apprently down to cheap internet booksellers but I for one can't afford to buy all the books I would want to read. What I love to do is to read others blogs and see what is recommended and then through my on-line reservation service reserve of order whatever I fancy. For a fee of 25p my library will source what ever I want from around the county and its often there for me within 48 hours. If they don't have it they often buy it and I'm often the first to borrow one of the latest titles - including the newest craft and decorating books!

I have to say I don't like the fact that my library needs security on the door after 5 due to the local unsavoury element, nor do I like teenagers yelling across the library to their friends and children running around and harassing pensioners quietly browsing or enjoying a coffee while reading the paper.

I do think there could be more creative thought around the opening hours. I'm sure there are people who would like the library to open once a week from say 1-9 so that its available to those who work all day but so that it doesn't extend the opening times. I'm sure also that some people would like to work a different pattern one day a week to enable them to vary their routine. I know that the Big Society idea is to use more volunteers although in my library our books are logged in and out by an electronic hole in the wall so they can't reduce staff to much below the current level. Staff are still required to humiliate those returning their books late as they have to attend THE DESK (the grown up version of the "naughty step"). I have learnt to respond with a big smile and a cheery " Well, it all increases the funds available for new books!"

But back to my shoes - yes - the library in Norwich was open on a Sunday and they had my shoes.( Why they needed to know the make I'm not sure - do people regularly leave their shoes in the library. I'd forgotten in my dismay and had to resort to drawing a picture!) Only one floor was open apparently but it was buzzing and should, I think, be used as a model for other libraries.

Am I alone?

Love Wend


  1. Hi Wend
    I'm very fond of libraries too. We are fortunate to have a small one just 5 mins walk from home, and a very big spanking modern one in Bath. Like you, I don't want to buy lots of books new and often try to source them from the library, but the last time I did that it cost me £5 just for the book to be sourced out of the region!! Needless to say, the next time I wanted an unusual book, I found it on amazon (used) for only 1p plus postage.... Which kind of made me feel a bit annoyed about the library pricing. It's really cheap if they find the book in the South West - but further afield: forget it - cheaper to buy used.
    Most of the books I want are non-fiction, I bet it would be easier to source fiction though.
    I'd also love for our little library to change their stock from time to time - in fact, I have ever so many suggestions on how they could improve the service!!
    Very pleased to hear you were reunited with the shoes - please do post a pic!
    Wishing you happy days with your shoes and a good read,
    Denise x

  2. HEAR hear I agree with your comment on noise in the library it drives me mad when trying to locate a book to hear nursery rhymes, stories and screaming from one end. I love children I work in a school but at the library I like a bit of hush, were lucky we can order on line for free which is good as there isn't a huge choice but I would hate to lose it, it's my first port of call when I spy a new book I fancy.
    Enough moaning from me, glad you were reunited with your shoes.
    Cate x

  3. I went back to my local library for the first time in years. It was a shadow of its former self despite refurbishment and I had a real problem locating any books. I could see DVDs and banks of computers but only the thinnest sprinkling of books and they seemed to have abandoned the Dewey system. I felt like Rip van Winkle. But they did order Monty Don's Ivington Diaries for me for 50p. I lived in libraries as a child,it was a regular part of my routine to visit two each week. I loved the peppery smell.

  4. I am a VERY regular user of my local library, but find (like Lucille) that there seem to be fewer books than in past times. Our librarians are a really jolly bunch and very helpful. However, it closes all day on a Wednesday and sometimes I wish they would rotate the day they close. I also think coffee in a library (as in the one you visited) is so CIVILISED!

  5. :) You gave me my chuckle for the day... I LOVE my library, and would agree they should stagger their hours. Glad you found your shoes.

    Warm blessings,

  6. Our local library has recently been smartened up with a lick of paint and they have introduced lots of new groups. There's a knitting club, film club and 3 book clubs. Since the start of the year I've been a member of the women only group and read books I wouldn't have read otherwise. They do lots of stuff for children too, book groups and activities during the hols. If only if had a tea shop too.
    Lisa x
    p.s glad you found the shoes!

  7. Wend,
    Ironically I'm off to the library this morning to take my books back and source a few more. It's a thriving one and very popular.I don't know if it's because I live in Wales where some things are subsidised but we pay nothing to order a book and the service is a bit ad hoc but we get there in the end. The staff are great but changing the opening times to reflect working patterns is a good one. I might ask today if they've considered it! I'm sure some people have no idea what treasures they contain. Long may they continue I say!

  8. My local library is very new and in the community centre, but it opens at wierd times and not many people are using it - also it has only a few books. The library in Norwich looks like my kind of place!!!!

  9. Am just catching up with my blogs after being away and have only just seen that you popped in on my work at The Forum! Thank you so much for your kind words. Its selling really well from there so it was a good move for me.