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?