Skip to main content

Room for both...

Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, is reported in today's Independent as saying that libraries should offer video game facilities and plenty of chattering coffee drinkers. His comments come as Camden Libraries lifts its ban on mobile phones. There are those on the traditional side who not unreasonably think that libraries should just be about silence and books, and there are those, like Burnham, who think that libraries would be better if they became roller discos because he obviously thinks that studious equals sombre which sends out a really great message to 'the yoof of today'! Burnham's vision of libraries seems to consist of little more than kids running amok, and the sound of computer games driving all the readers away.

But! There is no reason why we can't have both - with the emphasis of course remaining with the essential studious nature of the library. Let's face it, most people visit the library to refer to information, to study, or just to be able to write, in peace and quiet. At regular intervals they require coffee and nibbles. The set up at the British Library has it right - the reading rooms are seriously studious, and are always close to full, whereas outside in the main areas people are chatting away on mobile phones, are eating and drinking in the cafes and restaurant and are visiting the exhibitions. What's stopping this model being introduced on a reduced scale in the local library? Nothing. That's why my local - Swiss Cottage Central Library - comes close to this - and is also well attended. It also offers free internet access, and has a rather reasonable dvd hire section. To suddenly allow mobile phone chit chatting amongst all of this brings us too far from the library's primary purpose and sends out the wrong message about the very nature of reading - that, compared to video games and the latest mobile technology and coffee shop culture, it is unworthy and is on its last legs. In which case they should stop calling them libraries and call them arcades instead. Or something. By the way, did I mention that my brother last week bought his four year old a Nintendo DS? I suddenly realise that I am now a member of the proper grown-up generation!

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Good Canary

Forgot to mention that we went to see Good Canary at Kingston's Rose Theatre last week. Star role played by the brilliantly intense Freya Mavor, who plays a speed addict. It's directed by John Malkovich - his UK's theatre directorial debut. Will try and post more about it later.