Confession time – I hate going to my City Centre’s library. I wish I didn’t, but it really is a horrible place.
I have wonderful memories of going to our village hall as a child where there was a small but well stocked library, with a lovely librarian, children’s corner, seating area etc. It could only have been the size of a small storeroom but it had everything I needed as a precocious four year old. As I got older, I obviously had access to my school’s libraries (I read every single book at least twice) which although larger were pretty much static in terms of getting new books in. Our local library was replaced by a mobile one (basically a van full of books) which felt incredibly precarious as you climbed into it up some rickety steps and shook as you walked along it. Again, it wasn’t exactly well stocked (YA hadn’t really been invented so there was just a handful of Judy Blooms and Paula Danzigers in the “teens” section). Luckily, my parents always encouraged me to read and I would pester them to buy me books, so I could continue to be a bookworm throughout my teenage years. Then Amazon happened and books got super cheap, then the Kindle, then Netgalley – so I stopped using the library altogether. It’s only recently that I realised I could download ebooks from them for free that I decided to renew my membership.
That’s when I found that wave after wave of funding cuts have made the library, well, pretty dreadful.
When you walk into our main library (previously a nightclub), you’re presented with a subterranean tunnel which leads to some public toilets. Being pretty much the only public toilets in the city centre, the smell is horrific and they look disgusting (more public services cuts). You can then either take the lift or walk up two flights of stairs to the one main room (the smell permeates all the way to the top of the building). Once there, it’s not immediately obvious where to go. There’s an NHS quit smoking advice centre, a cancer helpdesk, a benefits/asylum area (I think)… but no books. I walked through the security turnstiles and found a small desk at the side of the room. There were people wandering around with lanyards on but it wasn’t immediately obvious if they were librarians, volunteer helpers or people working in the myriad of other services that the library now offers. I assume I’d arrived at the helpdesk (there was no sign) so I picked a lanyard wearer at random and asked if she could renew my membership. I’d previously tried to do this online and it seems that someone had messed it all up, so it took her some time to unpick what they’d done and set me up properly. I made the mistake of leaning on the counter during this process and realised that it was sticky with an unidentified substance (ewwwwwww). I grabbed my new card and got out as fast as I could (but not before two drunk men tried to chat me up).
I’ve used the online services that the library offers – free ebooks and audio books – but I won’t be going back there in a hurry.
So guys, make me jealous – do you have a fabulous local library? Or is yours just as horrible as mine? Do you feel bad for not using it more? Comment below!