Monday, September 28, 2009

Martini libraries - any book, any time, anywhere

Assembled bookcases - BILLY by Ikea

In my experience, libraries are wonderful places: filled with wonderful books and generally staffed by wonderful people.

The old Lisburn public library on Railway Street was a haven of words that would be taken home on loan from the days when I still fitted on the colourful plastic seats around the youngest books.

The school library also held fabulous books amongst the shelves and shelves of less attractive books. Who would have through that the Hitchhikers Guide Original Radio Scripts would be tucked away in non-fiction. And perhaps the love of books was boosted by the process of helping move the library from it’s old room to the new wing and then being able to eat lunch every day for the upper sixth year in the library.

And QUB library offered access to an enormous number of books about all manner of intriguing subjects. Picking a random floor in the old main library building to find a carrel (outside libraries, a “carrel” reverts to being called a “small desk”) to sit at would often lead to the distraction of wandering along the nearby stacks finding books that looked more interesting than the Applied Mathematics exercises that needed to be completed.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve been taking Littl’un to the public libraries at Ballyhackamore and Lisburn. Lots of sitting on the floor, reading books aloud, sometimes being read to, and often throwing interesting books into Littl’un self-selected pile. Great to discover that you can borrow/renew/leave back books from/at/to any Northern Ireland library.*

News breaks this morning that armed only with your local library card or proof of address, you’ll be able to borrow books from libraries across Northern Ireland, England and Wales under an initiative of the Society of Chief Librarians. Scotland may join the scheme at a later date.

The scheme is obviously ideal for families going away on holiday and not wanting to fill up their cabin baggage with heavy and bulky books. While you’ll have to leave the books back to the same area, the BBC News online article explains that:

The aim is to encourage more people to use libraries, in the face of competition from online book sellers and people browsing in bookshops with coffee bars.

The society’s president Fiona Williams explained that:

“Libraries are a public service for everybody. We want people to know that all libraries are open to them, not only the libraries where they live.

This is an important step towards making libraries even more accessible to all.

The society is developing a scheme for the future where one library card would allow the holder to borrow and return books to any public library in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

*Suggestions welcomed for a better wording of this sentence!


Boaly said...

This is great!

Stephen Barnes said...

It's great until you realise that you have to return the book to the local authority which issued it. So, no borrowing from Birmingham, and throwing it back to Central Library. Appartently you can post the book back, but it may be cheaper just to buy the book in the first place.