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What a waiting room usually looks like … and what it should look like

Libraries are the new secular abbeys and we may be facing our dissolution

So says blogger Bethan Ruddock – and the word ‘dissolution’ is absolutely spot on. We’ve all talked about the closure of public libraries but it’s not a strong enough word whereas dissolution conveys the true horrifying impact of the situation. Libraries are at a tipping point and people have begun to ask what is there future – if they have one. More importantly, the arrival of the digital age is forcing people to ask what is the purpose of a library in 2013.

The future of libraries will form part of my Last Writes exhibition but I’m starting to believe that libraries probably shouldn’t be in libraries. In Finland schools don’t have libraries – rather the books and elements of a library are integrated into every classroom. Their view is that a library shouldn’t be a separate room away from everything else but part of the fabric of the school. I spoke in my last blog about ‘book bombing’ – depositing books at bus-stops, by park benches, in phone boxes and the like. If there was ever anywhere you needed to a book it’s at a bus-stop while waiting for that delayed bus. My brother also points out that his dentist’s waiting room has no books (nor does mine) presumably because of fears over hygiene. What nonsense and what a shame. I’ve written before about the mind-numbing, head-thumping dullness of hospital waiting rooms with their grey paint and out-of-date posters warning you of every plague known to man coming to get you. How much nicer it would be if the waiting room resembled a library rather than some communist politician’s office.

Perhaps the time has come to take the mountain to Mohammed. Mobile libraries were a good start but let’s put books back where they should be – where the people are.

I will end with a quote from a comment made by a Facebook friend:

We are the dickheads, for not making sure that these sacred places (libraries) are the centre of OUR universe .. Libraries should have connectivity to the cloud via wi-fi etc (which they have), but also to connectivity of the printed word version to the origin of the literary masterpieces. The printed word version. Children of the future may believe that Shakespeare and Ruskin had an iPad .. When instead, they had an inkPad beside their desks .. The young need to learn the craft of pen and ink, to write, rather than the touch screen of the iPhone and iPad. Pen and ink, and the smell of ink and the scratch of the nib is like no other smell or sound .. It is the very essence of transferring our thoughts (and dreams) into a written reality .. a historical document forever, rather than a jumble of binary codes solely dependant on battery life .. To be lost as a midges life is lost when the summer day ends. I could weep at the thought of losing just one library ..

Amen to that.