I read this article the other day on a library in the US that is being pressured to move away from the traditional format of quiet stacks and dusty books and towards the more modern approach of coffee shops and computers. According to the panel involved, there just isn’t enough interest in libraries unless they are transformed into community centers with a range of services for its clients.
I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, I welcome anything that will get more people visiting libraries. If we can’t get people excited about them, they will disappear and that would be a terrible loss. And there’s nothing really wrong with adding a few extra services in addition to what they already offer.
But, on the other hand, I love the atmosphere of a traditional library. Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit Bristol Central Library in my search for information on tribal religion in Haida Gwaii (that’s a story for another day). And although Bristol Central does have an annex with a coffee shop and computer stations, the main building is very traditional with so many shelves that I began to wonder how the floor was able to hold it all up. And it has that lovely ‘old book’ smell. I would hate to lose places like that.
So, what do you think? How far should libraries go to keep their customers?