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A library sadly typical of those you’ll find today… dull, dull, dull

I’VE been using libraries all my life so that must make me an ‘expert’ and perfectly qualified to say what needs to be done to make them fit for purpose in 2013 (insert ironic smile icon).

1. We need a new definition for the library. The Collins dictionary says it is “A room or book where books and other library materials are kept”. Hardly sufficient.

Libraries now offer DVDs, ebooks, internet access, games, meeting rooms etc which is great but the public are now unsure what a library is there for – free books? entertainment? education? a place to meet friends?

We need a clear explanation as to what a library is in 2013. Plastic language in library missions statements such as ‘hub’, ‘facilitate’ and ‘accessible’ may mean something to library managers but they are meaningless to the public.

The urban dictionary defines a library as “an awesome place that is underrated in today’s society”. But it also says it is “A day shelter for: a. children without responsible parents; b. recently released adult convicts.” Perhaps both are right.

2. Don’t put libraries in a library. At the moment libraries are somewhere you have to go to. They are in a building separate from the rest of the town. In Finland, for example, there are no school libraries – the books and materials are incorporated in the classrooms rather than being a separate entity. Perhaps it’s time to take books to the people. Let’s have libraries adjacent to supermarkets, at football grounds, beside bus-stops (or on buses) or on the beach.

3. Libraries should be magical places for adults and children. Many libraries think putting up a brightly-coloured poster immediately makes their library ‘fun’. Not even close. Think instead Harry Potter meets Costa coffee. Let’s have libraries with secret passageways, model steam trains running along the shelves, a pet cat or dog wandering around and librarians who do magic tricks. Perhaps even a library lit by candles.

Now over to you. What else do libraries need to do?

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