From: Edward Thomas
Much of the reporting spotlight is currently placed on the precarious situation regarding local library services.
Apart from possible closures, what is also noticeable is the staff reduction in the town’s Central Library.
Last week I arrived at the second floor reference section to find a sign by the desk informing visitors that no one was available and that if help was needed, one would have to go the ground floor.
I did have occasion to seek help and found on the ground floor one single member of staff having to deal with all enquiries from the centre’s various areas.
Time was when there were always at least two or three assistants in the main area alone and a permanent member of staff in the reference section.
Yet there were other clear changes, emanating from the customer side.
The reference section once needed to keep a diary of those wanting to use the microfilm machines, for which there was sometimes a queue.
By contrast I was able to breeze in last week to a largely empty room, bereft of the many computer users that used to be present, and go to any machine I wanted, except that two of them were out of action.
Not all that long ago it was a thriving area where one could regularly find such research stalwarts as Professor John Pick and Lionel Jones beavering away over hot machines!
It would seem that those days are over. Research appears to be transferring increasingly to the confines of the home PC.
Library services are therefore changing from both customer and provider points of view.
But in the ever-steady march of technology, the losers, as ever, are those who have no access to or interest in modern techniques yet have to be enslaved by them.
Is there no accommodation to be considered any longer for those, diminishing in number perhaps, who want no more than to go into a library and borrow a couple of books or who wish to browse through reference material for some information?