10 Reasons I'm Not A Fan of The Public Library System in a Medium-Sized Southwestern Ontario Community

I mentioned in my last post that I might do a list of some reasons why a certain library system isn't one of my favourites.  Jen's comment that she didn't mind this system inspired me to do that list now.  So here's my list of some reasons why I'm not a fan of LPL:

1. They hired an MBA as their “Chief Executive Officer”.  I'm not against MBA-types running libraries (and think that, when they also have an MLIS, are often ideal for libraries).  Otherwise, call me old-fashioned but I still believe the person who runs a library should have some knowledge of and connection to libraries.

2.  They've got sponsors for most sections of their library and again, I'm not completely opposed as I know the realities of library funding.  But everytime I go to the top of the escalator to the second floor and see the giant sign announcing “The General Motors Business Resource Centre”, I cringe.  (On the other hand, bequests from families and non-profit organizations like the London Lions and the Friends of the London Library to sponsor certain sections seems a lot less…harmful?  Conflicted?  Problematic?)

3.  In the main branch, except for the Rogers Media Studies section (there's that beautiful corporate synergy again!) and the coffee shop, the entire ground floor is dedicated to children's and teen services.  This means adults looking for materials invariably have to go to the second (or third) floor before they'll find something of interest which doesn't seem very user-friendly in terms of design.  [2006-09-26 edit to add: When you get to the other floors, there's no real “flow” the sections – they seem scattered about in “chunks” rather than naturally leading from one to another like I think a proper library should do.]

4. Related to the last point, this also means that there is no help desk, other than the one for teenagers and one for children, on the main floor either.  This is actually sort of what inspired me to write a brief jab about my dislike for this systerm in my last entry.  I was there yesterday and found a book in the OPAC that should've been in the Rogers Media Studies collection (along with the other similar books I was picking up.)  It wasn't so I asked at circulation if they knew if it could be with the 300's upstairs.  Circulation said they couldn't answer questions like that and sent me to the Teen Help Desk.  No one was there but there was a sign directing you to the Children's Help Desk.  The person on that desk told me that “maybe the book is in transit?” even though the OPAC clearly stated that it was in library and I don't think many libraries use the gift of prophecy when tracking books.  I finally went up to the second floor to the (other) section for 300-level type books and found what I was looking for. 

5.  You aren't allowed to borrow back issues of magazines from the downtown branch (though you can from the other branches.)  [2006-09-26 edit to add: the magazine are also located all over the library by the related section instead of in one central magazine area.]

6.  They often place DVD's on the shelves with the books rather than giving them their own section (is this called “collocation“?) which I think is a more intuitive way to organize non-book items of any type (CD's, graphic novels, computer software, etc.)  I'm also not a big fan of the big cumbersome DVD security sleeves that they use.  Oh, and their DVD collection is pretty lacking as well.  I mean, I don't expect to get the latest Tom Cruise movie at the library but I do think most public libraries can fill a niche by loaning out art films, foreign films, classics, documentaries, etc. 

7. Their web site looks out-dated and isn't very well designed.  They use Millennium for their OPAC but I much prefer Dynix that's in use in Regina and Calgary.  I haven't used their Internet terminals much but in the few times that I did, I found them to be lacking as well – only Internet Explorer, having to manually book your time at the help desk rather than an automated system, no access to the CD-ROM or a USB drive. 

8. They close all branches on Mondays (and Sundays over the summer.)  I've never understood this – I think that if libraries have to be closed for budget reasons, why close on a Sunday which I assume would be a popular day for people to visit the library?  (I'm not being graded on this rant so have no stats to back this up.)

9. They only allow patrons to take out a maximum of 40 items.  More and more public libraries are going to this limit but I find it very restricting – say I take out ten books for personal reading, ten books for school projects, ten magazines and ten CD's or DVD's, I'm at my limit.  Maybe I should just not take out so many (because admittedly, I don't come close to reading every book I take out) but I like to have almost a “mini-library” at home to choose from when I start a new book.  This isn't an issue for me (yet!) but parents with young children can easily hit the 40 limit taking out picture books as well. 

10.  The first thing you see when you walk into the downtown branch is a security guard with the circulation desk fairly far removed from the main doors.  I know this is pretty common, especially at downtown branches in major cities.  But I always find the security guard at this library to be more…intimidating isn't the word because they're basically rent-a-cops…but more, hmmm, not sure how to phrase it.  How about this: the way they position their guard right beside the security gate away from all other staff makes you feel guilty before proven innocent.  (Seeing how they react when the buzzer goes off because a book hasn't been demagnetized reinforces this impression as well
.)


To be fair, here's some things I like about this system:
1. I love their outdoor reading garden.



2. I like their coffee shop and the fact that it's a locally owned company.

3. I think it's awesome that the chair of their board was willing to come out and MC our Freedom to Read Week event last February.  There aren't as strong of connections between the library and our library school as I expected when I arrived here.  But that was pretty cool of him!

4.  For the most part, I've found that the waits for popular books aren't as long as they've been at other libraries I've belonged to. 

5. I like that many of their staff are my colleagues in library school and all are pretty cool people! 

Comments 18

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    I am one of those people who takes a while to get used to change. I was a regular at the old location of the LPL main branch and children's — being a downtown resident. I agree with Jason's take on the feel when you walk through the front doors of the central branch — there just isn't the welcoming spirit, which I found the old location had.
    However, this location is very accessible to wheels (wheelchairs, strollers, walkers) which is a plus. The former children's library was inaccessible to wheels though it had a much cozier feel.
    A real drawback to the current children's library is that this help desk is no longer responsible for circulation. While circulation takes time, it also connects the children's librarians with what their patrons are reading and with their lives. While the lack of circulation might have resulted in great presence on the “floor” as it were, I find the children's librarians are often in front of their computers at the help desks, or working among the myriad of computers problem-solving techno glitches and keeping the peace.
    I do like that the coffee shop is locally owned, that the library has a place downtown, that the library supported the idea of reading gardens — however, the cage these gardens sit in and the restriction on their use (locked to outside) is unfortunate. There were not as many child-friendly elements as hoped — the stream running along is just asking for kids to stick their hands and any other item in — why weren't kids ideas for a magic treehouse to read in, incorporated? I know other ideas like the free candy station were not feasible, but many children provided sketches of their ideal gardens — and they are accessible from children's which is a bonus.
    The teen zone sign is an embarrassment. Gaudy colors and so obviously in the open (shall we all peer through the windows at the specimens of teenagers?!) as to be off-putting.
    I had a VERY similar experience with the Rogers Media Centre — the book wasn't there but rather upstairs and who knew? !?!
    Well, I'm sure LPL staff themselves share many of these criticisms and visions for “the ideal public library”. The best thing we can do is to provide feedback as often as possible — so the library knows what the public envisions. And to support librarians with vision, so they know the public is behind them.
    Unfortunately, like many workplaces, there is not as much autonomy as we imagine (or hope) for library employees. The hierarchical structure makes it difficult to implement changes that satisfy both the public and the purse-holders. Ironically it is the public's coin in the purse — so SPEAK UP!
    As my son once said after visiting the pictographs at Lake Superior Provincial Park on a particularly windy and choppy day, WHERE is the COMMENTS AND CONCERNS BOX when you really need it!!!!!

    Posted 07 Sep 2006 at 11:30 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    3) I quite like the children's and teens' section being on the main floor. As a 'grown up', I don't mind walking up and down flights of stairs (or, God forbid, taking the elevator) to find stuff that interests me. I think having the children's and teens' section be the very first thing that kids see when they come in to the library lends a certain sense of wonder and awe and excitement. It's waaaaay more fun to immediately see books you like rather than having to be dragged down to the basement (where many childrens'/YA sections are) or through the reference section or off to the left, as the case may be.
    As a parent, I like the kids' stuff on the main floor because if you've ever had to try to drag your tired, excited child up (or down) flights of stairs or through the reference section, arguing all the way…or worse yet, having to carry two (or more) because they're sleepy or grumpy or want more books or what have you, you REALLY appreciate the ground floor thing.
    4) Why can't all the help desks in the entire library be somehow mystically connected to one another through some futuristic network of fibre optics and infrared transmissions so that if someone *did* need help on floor 5 that someone on floor 3 had the answer to, they could just somehow, and I can't explain this very well because the whole concept is fuzzy and still in the imagination of some eggheads in the US military, but they could just somehow talk, in some kind of a virtual reality, to find the answers the patron needed?
    9) FORTY ITEMS?!! Are they INSANE!!?? If you need to take out ten books and ten disks and ten DVDs and ten magazines and you actually have time to read, ingest, comprehend, and enjoy all that stuff in two weeks, why can't you just go back for forty more? Who the hell takes forty items out of the library at once? This is a serious question. If the borrowing period is three weeks, the average reader, I'd wager, can burn through about three to five books in that period. Possibly twenty music CDs, and, if they're really bored, a whole schwack of movies/DVDs/what have you. Sure, if you're running a doctor's office and you need magazines for your waiting room, forty might be a bit restrictive, but hokey dinah, I think a forty item limit is waaay too high. This is coming from someone who currently owes her public library some rather steep fees.
    I have young kids. My young kids are limited to the number of books we know they will read in the borrowing period. Given the very short attention span of most children, the picture books are going to be 'used up' in a week or two (at which time, you can RETURN THEM AND TAKE OUT DIFFERENT ONES. With early readers, two books is a good maximum. I think folks should teach their kids not to borrow over their limit and to understand that the library is a resource you can access, but it shouldn't be the central repository for your own personal library. I think. If you want a personal library, take out ten books, keep them on your shelf, return the ones you've read and renew the ones you haven't.
    Wow. There's my rant for the week.

    Posted 08 Sep 2006 at 1:34 am
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    point #8 is the only one I wholeheartedly agree with you on – Sunday is my preferred library day and ALL libraries here are closed on sundays during the summer.
    I'll eventually get around to writing my own post to discuss your other points….you know I never knew they had a reading garden!

    Posted 08 Sep 2006 at 2:47 am
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    I didn't know the old location so I don't want to comment on a library I haven't seen. But I do know this change to the new location is fairly recent and so a lot of my disappointment with LPL comes from what I see as many missed opportunities.
    I didn't think of the issue about the children's desk not doing their own circulation but that's a good point too – children's librarians *need* to know what their patrons are reading. (I'll comment more on the location of the children's section in my reply to Cenobyte below.)
    I also didn't mention another issue at LPL that you first pointed out to me – they have self-serve holds that are identified by name on the slip. So if someone saw that a person whose name they recognized had a hold in, they could easily sneak a peek to see what books their acquaintance was checking out. And if that book is “Dealing With Spousal Abuse” or “How To Shoot Heroin”, that's a problem. (I think this is pretty unlikely for the most part but the potential for privacy to be breeched makes it enough of an issue that people should be concerned.)
    A related point – I also recently noticed that they print out their Date Due slips with the patron's name instead of theri library card number. Obviously I'd noticed this before but I realised the full implications of doing this when Shea pulled out the date due slip someone had left in “The World Is Flat” (her current reading) and I saw the familiar name of a UWO librarian on it! (Nothing incriminating but I now know that this person has an interest in Jane Austen films and Portugese Irregular Verbs for instance. Imagine if she'd accidently left a date due slip that said she'd taken out “Dealing With Spousal Abuse” or “How To Shoot Heroin”)
    Your point about the reading garden is a good one. I think I'll revise my statement to say that I like the *idea* of a reading garden although once again, their execution is lacking.
    The Teen Zone is a joke but 99% of Teen Zones I've seen are horrible adult-inspired visions of what the kids will find “hip”. This usually involves gaudy colours and/or neon and not much else that differentiates this area from the rest of the library. And you're right – having it literally “behind glass” for every passerby to look at is worse than a zoo.
    Your final comments about providing feedback and supporting librarians with vision is right on as well. Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

    Posted 08 Sep 2006 at 3:25 am
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    I look forward to your comments. The reading garden is a bit hard to find – you have to go down a narrow wing by the coffee shop (which is itself, a bit out-of-the-way beyond the “Teen Zone”). Hmm, that's a design problem right there if you ask me – why have the coffee shop right beside the Teen Zone? Is that the target audience for this service?

    Posted 08 Sep 2006 at 3:26 am
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Hey Jill,
    I'm going to rant back because I take big exception to a few of your comments (okay, pretty much all of them.)
    First off, I know this is just your personality but the fact that you're expressing very strong opinions about the layout of a library you've never seen seems pretty baseless to me.
    Trust me – no kid is going to get a sense of “wonder and awe” when they walk into the LPL, past the security guard, past the OPAC terminals (which had a nice surgical glove left on one of them the other day!), past the parking validation machine, past the escalators and then to the children's section which is all but hidden behind a 3/4 wall.
    My classmate, Linda, already noted the problems with the design of the Teen Zone in her comments above. It's this big open space that has no sense of privacy, nothing to make it different from any other part of the library (other than a gaudy sign saying “Teen Zone”) and is lined with huge glass windows that every patron must walk past to get to the main doors.
    I said above that not many libraries have done teen zones effectively but of all the public libraries I've visited (and I've visited a lot – I like doing library tourism), Red Deer did a pretty good job with “The Mezz” (http://www.rdpl.org/the-mezz/) which was built on a mezzanine level overlooking the main floor of the library giving the teens both a sense of privacy but also a kind of “king of the castle” perspective. I suspect the entire project truly makes them feel important – not just by slapping up a neon sign in an open corner of the library, main floor or not.
    I don't mind going upstairs for books either and didn't mean for my comment to convey that. Again, it's just that the way the children's and young adult sections are laid out makes pretty much the entire first floor of the LPL seem like a waste. Why not have the teen zone on the third floor in a private alcove overlooking the London skyline? Why not have the children's section where the Rogers Media Centre is, right inside the front doors, so there truly is the possiblity of “wonder & awe” for patrons coming in for that purpose?
    That's another issue I have with your comments. Most of your arguments are relevant to you and your circumstances only. You say: “I don't want to have to lug grumpy kids upstairs” but I could reply why do you (and your grumpy or excited kids…who are probably infringing on others' rights in the library) deserve better access to the materials you need/want than a childless adult or a senior citizen or a handicapped person or anybody else who pays taxes in the City of London?
    Moving on, I'm pretty sure that their computers are networked but for 90% of questions at a help desk, you just want a quick face-to-face answer, not to wait for someone to type the question and send it upstairs and wait for a reponse from someone elsewhere in the building who may or may not be busy at their own help desk. Most of the time, the simplest answer is also the best one and I think having a help desk on the main floor, close to the entrance is that answer.
    Your rant on the forty item limit is completely misguided if you ask me. In fact, in my perfect library world, there are no limits on borrowing whatsoever (but if you need a number, why not “99” like RPL used to do? That's a lot closer to being unlimited than 40 is.)
    “No limit” is how UWO library works for grad students – you can take out as many books as you need and if somebody wants a book you have, it simply gets recalled. Many of the UWO items are probably in higher demand than LPL ones yet this system seems to work just fine.
    Do I “read, ingest, comprehend and enjoy” all the books I take out? I already said that I don't. But for some of my assignments, I've needed to have 10+ library books out at one time, just to refer to, if not to read in their entireity (on top of the other items I already have out.) When I did a Freedom to Read Week event, I used my card to borrow 20 or so items so that I could set-up a display at the event. I wanted to borrow more but I was at my limit. And does the library (or you?) have the right to define how I use the materials I borrow? To a point, yes (no damaging them, etc.) but if I want to borrow 40 copies of Stephen King hard covers to line my bookcase or raise my computer monitor or act as paperweights, that's my perogative. And why shouldn't I be able to use some of the books I borrow to create a mini-library for myself here? If someone wants one of the forty books (or 50 or 99) I have checked out (out of LPL's collection of tens of thousands), they can put a hold on it and I'll return it when it comes due.
    As for your thoughts on what and how much your children should read, that's great for you but again, extremely presumptive to say that it should apply to anyone else. When I wrote what I did, I was thinking specifically of a single mother I know here who has a 3 year old who is a voracious reader of picture books but because of her personal circumstances, can't afford (time or money) to get to the library often enough to replenish those forty books (which have to serve both her and her child.)
    “Two is a good maximum”. Seriously – did you really write that???
    I know this might be coming across as incredibly pissy and angry but I sometimes get frustrated – I'm happy you're reading my blog, I'm even happier that you comment but I also get tired that for every five comments you leave, four tend to be critical or self-righteous or extremely opinionated. This happened to be a case where it felt like you hit all three buttons. Oh, and THE SHOUTING DIDN'T HELP EITHER!

    Posted 08 Sep 2006 at 4:45 am
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    “They often place DVD's on the shelves with the books rather than giving them their own section (is this called “collocation”?) which I think is a more intuitive way to organize non-book items of any type (CD's, graphic novels, computer software, etc.)”
    Yep. That's collocation. And in many cases it isn't possible within the Dewey Decimal Classification system. Graphic novels (or Graphic non-fiction) are all located in the same call number as Peanuts and Garfield collections.
    You won't find award winning graphic books about Louis Riel or Bosnia on the shelves with the text-only versions unless the library decides to deliberately contravene DDC. Who has the time to do that, or the money to hire enough expert cataloguers who can deal with exceptions? *sigh*
    An alternative would be nice, but DDC is pretty deeply entrenched in the public library consciousness.
    Cheers

    Posted 08 Sep 2006 at 11:20 pm
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    Yeah, I think LPL is the only place where I've seen DVD's and videos on the shelves beside similar-themed books rather than in their own section. I find it very frustrating so that's interesting that. I've only read one graphic novel here (Watchmen) which I picked up as a hold but I think they group (at least most of) their graphic novels together in the “Teen Zone”.

    Posted 09 Sep 2006 at 7:27 pm
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    Hey, it's your 'blog, man. Rant back all you like.
    Critical and self-righteous and opinionated about sums up some of my comments, yup. I think, though, that the sarcasm isn't making it through.
    Look, I wasn't criticising you personally. Or at least, I didn't think I was. Like you say, I'm not trying to define how people use the materials they borrow; I'm just expressing my opinion (which differs from yours). I'm not sure how you know whether I've ever been to the LPL, but we'll just let that one go.
    “Two is a good maximum” for our early readers. That's what I meant. And yes, my comments do apply to me or to my circumstances only, usually. Usually I comment on my experience as your post has highlighted something personal (an experience, a memory, an opinion). That being said, I know I seem to push your buttons.

    Posted 10 Sep 2006 at 2:06 pm
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    re: 40 item limit @ LPL
    It used to be 75 before they changed it — I think just in Jan of 2006. I too (like cenobyte) am a mom — of three kids. I am also a storyteller, a musician, and now a library student. I often take out books for research in various areas, and for book displays when I have a storytelling “gig” in a school — say for a Grade 3 class when I'm presenting the Algonquin tale “The Boy who Lived with Bears”, I'll carry along a whole stack of related titles (both fiction & non-fiction). So, when you include my own pleasure reading, story cassettes for long cartrips, cookbooks — yep, I can rack it up to 40 no problemo. However, that seems to be the hovering area. I think 75 gave a bit of breathing space.
    As for limiting children's selections in a public library setting — depends on your mode of transportation (we cycle) and frequency of visits — when they were in weekly storytime our #s were lower. My children have been known to devour books at the rate of one a day in some parts of the summer. But now that they are older they all have their own library cards — and even pay their own fines!
    When I was taking a Children and YA Literature course at UWO last semester I went over the 40 and pleaded with my 11 year old daughter to take out some books on her card for me. She was happy to oblige, with the stipulation I not accumulate fines on her card…
    Solution: LPL has been receiving lots of feedback requesting the 40 limit be reinstated to 75 — esp by teachers. We'll see if the people's voice will be heard.

    Posted 10 Sep 2006 at 9:35 pm
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    I must admit, I am a HUGE fan of the LPL, but for superficial reasons alone I think. I had no idea of the library's various “issues” as you've outlined them in your comments. Although, when I was there this weekend, I did notice the Teen Zone sign *gag*. Oh, LPL…why??? why??? I, too, love the reading garden and the little cafe (I spent the whole time sipping my tea and giggling over the witty name “Little Red Roaster”). Is the cafe under new ownership since about a year ago? I don't remember them being there before (maybe I didn't see the signs?).
    The LPL holds a special place in my heart from my undergrad. It was my study/work place, and in my mind work never goes better and faster than when I'm there, cheesy eh? I have never had the opportunity to delve into the library’s seedy underbelly as you undoubtedly have and I look forward??? to discovering the library’s many issues. The closed on Sunday and Monday thing also drives me insane—I like doing hmwrk on Sundays and I await October 15th (I think that's the date) when the library is open for 4 sad hours.

    Posted 10 Sep 2006 at 10:25 pm
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm actually physically incapable of not loving every library I visit, at least a little bit. It's just that, knowing LPL had a major move to a new location a few years ago and also, being located in the same city as a library school, I expected a lot more from this library and was fairly disappointed instead. I've visited libraries in much smaller communities (Goderich, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Kelowna BC) that had much more inviting, innovative, exciting libraries. Even the tiny Port Stanley library is more charming the moment you walk in the door.
    We had a talk about the point you mentioned sometime in first semester – how many university libraries are also unwelcoming, especially to undergrads, and so they often go to the familiar environs of the local public library for studying, reference services and materials. (That's what I did for a lot of my undergrad too.)
    Not sure on the timeline for the Little Red Roaster but love the name as well.

    Posted 11 Sep 2006 at 1:54 am
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Yeah, the reasons people might need to take out more than 40 books are many. I didn't list the fact that I often have a few books out on my card for Shea since she rarely carries her library card with her. (Imagine the shame that caused me in Alberta where each individual was supposed to pay the user free for their own card – which I refused to do on principle. Luckily, no librarian ever questioned my taste in British chicklit!)
    And the issue of how often one can even get to the library to turnover their books is another problem – I know being without a car here has hampered our movement quite a bit and between that and how busy I am with schoolwork, I have to plan a visit to the library well in advance rather than “popping by” on a much more frequent basis like I used to do in Regina.

    Posted 11 Sep 2006 at 2:07 am
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    Trust me, I'm not the only person whose buttons you push.
    Anyhow, I didn't take your comments as a personal insult. I just tried to respond to the things you were saying with a similar tone. Call it the “Oudot Effect” (which works much better in person than online, I guess.)
    How do I know you've never been to LPL? Well, I'm not 100% sure but if you're saying that having the youth sections on the main floor is a good way to give LPL patron a sense of “wonder and awe”, that's a pretty big clue. Knowing (roughly) what you've been up to in the last few years is another pretty big clue (especially since the central LPL branch has only been at its present location since late 2002.)
    One of my grand theories of life is that you can never be 100% sure of anything. But I'm 99% sure that you've never been to the LPL Central Branch (you know, that LPL doesn't stand for Lumsden Public Library right? Er, that was sarcasm.) If I'm wrong, I will stand corrected. But I also think that's a bit of a strawman argument compared to what we're talking about – what the most effective layout of a library should be, how many items a patron should be allowed and how to best serve young patrons.

    Posted 11 Sep 2006 at 2:24 pm
  15. Anonymous wrote:

    Oh yeah, and presumably if you *had* been to London, you probably would've mentioned it to me when you heard I was moving here for school (at my farewell luncheon or something?) I don't have any memory of you saying “You've got to see the downtown library – it will completely awe you!” (grin)

    Posted 11 Sep 2006 at 2:29 pm
  16. Anonymous wrote:

    (snort) Speak of the devil – I saw him at lunch the other day.
    Actually, I wasn't talking about the LPL in particular, just that I really like the design of having the children's and teens' sections on the main floor. So regardless of how frequently one has been to *that particular* branch, my point (ill-made) was that as far as library design goes, in general, I really really like the kids' stuff being on the main floor. I've seen it at the newly redesigned Winnipeg Public Library (which is fabulous) and it really works well. There are a few other libraries I've been to that house the kids' and teens' section on floor one, and it's just something I think is a grand idea.
    As for how many items a patron may borrow at a time, the rivers diverge.
    I do think you should rant *more* on your 'blog, though. I like rants.

    Posted 11 Sep 2006 at 4:35 pm
  17. Anonymous wrote:

    I think that having the youth services stuff on the main floor has potential but as with any idea, it's all in the execution. And what an appropriate term to describe LPL's attempt.
    I haven't seen Winnipeg's new library yet but it's on my list. I've heard good things. Just curious – what other libraries have you been to that a) had kid stuff on the main floor and/or b) were ones that particularly impressed you? I'm always looking for new ones to check out.
    PS – how's Oudot?

    Posted 12 Sep 2006 at 4:38 am
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    Oudot is well. More news under separate cover. Other libraries I've been to whose design I liked. Huh. Good question.
    It's old and smells funny, but I've always been partial to the design of the library in Prince Albert (Wapiti Regional); this could be because I spent a lot of time there, but also it had the kids/YA section to the immediate right of the checkout counter, and everything else to the left. Other stuff in the basement. They had a HUGE readng area for the kids and for visiting childrens'/YA authors, and it was great to have great huge windows.
    Winnipeg, of course, as mentioned (again with the big huge windows, the readings area, a separate area for teens with computer terminals, very cool seating, and an innovative book/art display wall).
    I seem to recall a very cool oldish library in Halifax, too, that had a wonderful kids section on the main floor, right by the front door, but I don't remember what branch it is. I'm realy good at this, huh? See, when you've a mind like a sieve, details aren't really forthcoming. Help me out here…also, in Toronto, there's a relatively new library (you know, that one library in Toronto?) that has a REALLY great kids'/YA section right when you come in the door, with vivid book display areas and the puppet theatre and very small seating (which can, but should *not* hold a grown-up). Damn it. I totally can't remember which branches these are. I wrote them *down*, for Pete's sake…(sigh). Well, there you are.
    …you know, it's more that what I *don't* like is when a library is designed to push the kids'/YA section 'out of the way'. Downstairs, or around the corner, or way in the back…
    Particularly *impressive* libraries, though; I'd have to go with the libraries in Munich and Vienna, but mostly because they were so old and beautiful, and utterly indulgent. I did really like the big library in Boston whose name I can't remember, again for the same reason, because it was huge and overwhelming and just very, very cool.
    Personally, I'm partial to University libraries. I think it's really cool how some libraries are seemingly really poorly thought out (putting study cubicles in the middle of the main checkout area, for instance), and completely un-conducive (is that a word) to thinking and studying and writing papers. While other library designers seem to have really hit the nail on the head (Dalhousie, I seem to recall, has a very good library, as does SFU).
    I don't know very much about library design, “but”, as folks say about art in general, “I know what I like”. Some libraries seem to work better than others; you'll know this better than I. Sometimes it's about the services, sometimes it's about other things. I don't tend to get a lot out of library websites in general, but it is really important that if I phone the library branch, I get the pertinent information (hours, location, etc.). Even better if I get to talk to a real person (which I know isn't always possible).
    Basically, I never really thought a lot about library design until seeing the new Winnipeg Public Library, and that got me started thinking about which libraries I've liked and why. But you know, you go to a new town, you go to their library, you forget to take pictures and/or notes, and pretty soon, the details blur together. Some stand out. Most don't. Interesting discussion, though,

    Posted 12 Sep 2006 at 2:17 pm

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