Wednesday, September 13, 2006

This libraries problem...

Now that the newspapers have picked up Susan Hill's passionate and eloquent plea for libraries to stop turning away from books and becoming social centres instead, blog innocents are discussing the matter. 'What do you think?' asked the Partner of the Bitch on the way into the pub. 'She's right!' I cried as we ordered.
'But don't you think the libraries have a place as social centres - now that there's no longer the church or the village hall?'
The Bitch choked on her Pinot Grigio and considered going home to pack her bags.
'In fact,' went on The Partner, 'social centres are precisely what libraries are not becoming. The shift to computers is just as isolating as silent reading rooms: more so. Wouldn't it be better, if libraries want to expand, that they expanded into activities centred around books?'
He had a point. The Bitch abandoned her plans for packing.
'Though, you know,' he said, 'I have a hunch that for a lot of people libraries were never places for fiction. Many people went to the library mainly for facts.'
The Partner works with people's problems. 'Even so,' he went on, 'in the old days no one ever came to me and said that they had been to the library and read up about their condition. But every day I get people coming to me and saying that they've looked it up on the internet. So you can see why libraries might shift towards computers...'
Hm.
'Also,' he said: 'this argument that libraries shouldn't abandon books because the expansion of the bookshops shows how much people love them and need them: well, couldn't that be an argument for the other side: people buy books now, so they borrow them less?'
Oh yeah. The Bitch's very own subject: commercialisation and commodification.
A bleakness descended over The Bitch. She decided to drown her sorrows and ended up pretty drunk.

1 comment:

Katy Evans-Bush said...

I can really understand the dilemma. My problem with libraries is historical and possibly now obsolete, if they're operating as big internet cafes: I can never seem to take anything back...I've been blacklisted from every library I've tried to join since about 1980.

I'm sure I always used to see people hurriedly thumbing through family medical encyclopaedias, though...