Thursday, 27 March 2008

Where have all the books gone?

Went to my local library a few days back (Leighton Buzzard) to find that it had been re-vamped inside, and was a bit disappointed to find that it was nothing like how I remembered it. In the old days (without sounding like an old man here) it had low lighting, a cosy atmosphere absolutely filled with books neatly organised in horizontal and vertically placed shelves. There was art on the walls, with a gallery space and plenty of seats to study on, along with a cosy children's department where I remember borrowing some of my favourite books as a kid. Now however that's all changed... After walking through the single front door (the old one made a distinct sound when you entered) you're greeted by what appears to be a poorly decorated council building, gaudy blue carpets and the good old gallery and artwork has gone, replaced by wall of badly designed posters depicting stock photos of people with forced smiles. The harsh spot lights make the atmosphere seem tense and sterile. All the beautiful books have now been reduced, displayed in a wonky zig-zag manner, pointlessly taking up space. One of the biggest shocks was the fact that there seemed to be tables with more computers on than books, kids playing on loud, shooty computer games, or adolescents accessing semi-pornographic material.

More computers with complicatd login proceedures than books...

Where have all the shelves gone, and why are they all wonky?

Kids where loitering by the DVD's siting on poorly designed office chairs, and there was hardly anyone in the arts section. To me the library was always a sanctuary of learning, a world of knowledge at your fingertips. You could read half a series of Asterix or TinTin books in a day on the comfy bean-bags in the children's areas, or walk up the stairs (now covered in a sickly plastic grip material and walls plastered with warnings to keep the compensation-seekers at bay should there be a fall) to be greeted by rows of art books on the masters. The art section has been considerably reduced now, from about 6 massive shelves, to 2 tiny ones. It's like the library's gone from that cosy old sweater or comfy chair you used to love and know, to something shiny, contrived, and false. I only hope the character of the old library returns...

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