Is a noisy library a joyful thing or a major headache?

Catching up on news this week after my holiday, my interest was caught by the discussion in the Times on last week’s article reporting on public libraries opening the way for drinks, snacks and mobiles. The accompanying commentary was horrified by the idea that library patrons will be
allowed to talk on mobile phones, bring food and drink, play on computer
games and watch football matches, feeling this diversification is a mistake and that giving people what they have elsewhere is not going to bring in lost
book borrowers.

Sue McKenzie’s (President of the Association of London Chief Librarians) response says that their ambition is not to dumb down but to make libraries welcoming and accessible. "We struggle with an outdated image that is
perpetuated by the cries of the middle classes whenever we try to change
anything, harking back to the 1950s and fierce librarians with buns and
cardigans protecting the precious books and the silence. We fight to move
our libraries to high street locations and make them more accessible and are
met with howls of protest from people who don’t even use them."

It seems to me that the debate here has been polarised between those who feel libraries should be about books and learning and those who feel they should be about accessibility but are these two aims necessarily mutually exclusive?

One comment to this post

  •  :  Another interesting article on the same topic in today's Independent Andy Burnham, Secretary of State, is launching a consultation to look at proposals which would involve librarie installing coffee franchises, book shops and film centres. "Noise bans will also be reviewed." The comments on this article are well worth reading but I would love to be at the Public Libraries Authority Conference to hear Mr Burnham speak. Are you at the conference? What was the reaction?

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