Yes, I am getting on my soap box about libraries again but I feel the need to talk about it.
Wakefield One, Wakefield. Source: Wakefield First
I have been meaning to write about this since seeing a report in the Daily Mail (a UK daily newspaper) that talked about an independent report calling for libraries to become more like Costa Coffee shops. You can read the original report here. What has spurred me to finally write about it today (not least of all because I haven’t posted this week) is a quote MyLittleBookBlog posted yesterday:
“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries”– Anne Herbert
I have no doubt the authors of the report mean well and agree with Mr Sieghart when he says how important libraries are to those who are the poorest in our society. I also agree that Wi-Fi has to become a necessity for libraries to continue to survive and thrive (digital book lending on e readers anyone?), the need for comfy sofas and toilets as well as offering other services to make the library a community hub but the part that made go “uh, what?” is the suggestion that hot drinks should be offered in libraries. I think he has missed something very important in that regard. If libraries offer hot drinks along with everything else, doesn’t the library then become a café with books to browse and read?
There is a reason why there is a rule in most libraries that I have visited that no food or drink is allowed near the computers in the library at least: it’s called health and safety and making sure that other people don’t gag over horrible food smells! By all means offer food and drink but NOT in the library itself!
I am proud to say that most libraries in the Wakefield area offer comfortable areas to sit and read, toilets and programmes for the community as well as a place for the older members in the area to meet and talk to other people. Frequently, the library staff are the only people they talk to all week. In my mind, the libraries offer a great value for money service. A library building that offers everything that the report says need to be all libraries is the Wakefield One building in Wakefield however hot drinks and food are only available in Create Cafe downstairs and food and drink is not allowed near the computers.
So it is possible to cram all of what this report is saying libraries need to do but libraries like coffee shops? Uh, no. I doubt libraries are actually heading for disaster if they don’t incorporate all of this but let’s maybe have more like the libraries in the Wakefield area and Wakefield One but keep libraries and coffee shops as separate entities. Possibly the best compromise available.
P.S.: Find out more Wakefield Libraries and the latest news by visiting the Wakefield Libraries blog and check out Wakefield (and it’s library) during the Food, Drink and Rhubarb Festival taking place Friday 20 to Sunday 22 February 2015.