Monday, 8 October 2012

Update & The Future of Libraries

Before I start today's blog topic I have a few updates:

Firstly, a huge apology to David Powers King. It seems our mission to explore what makes great science fiction came to a premature end at the weekend. For those expecting to find his guest post here on October 5th, he is actually scheduled to appear in my new Speculative Fiction Writer weekly post on December 5th. Unfortunately David thought it was October 5th, and to make matters worse I did not check my email until yesterday. Sorry, David.

Secondly, I need to correct a misconception in my 'want to know a secret?' blog post. Quite a few people mistook the image I posted as my short story collection cover. It was actually Ida Jansson's designer logo. I will be doing a cover reveal for each of my two short story collections at a later date.



Thirdly, to make it easier for my writing friends to find me on NaNoWriMo, I have set up a new account in the name of EllieMGarratt.




Now on with today's post topic . . .

In Exmouth we have a small but busy library. There are three rooms - adult, children, and reference. The reference room used to contain individual desks, and I would often go there to write. However, a few years back the desks were put together to make one large table. Unfortunately, this now means you can have a person sat either side of you. When I say sat next to you, I mean sandwiched. I don't go there to write anymore because of this reason, which is a shame.

Given we are the largest town in Devon I have always believed our library should be bigger. But, like most things, everything depends on the local council's budget, and there isn't one for building a new library.

Last week I visited Paignton's library for the first time, whilst staying with Mr. M. This is a new development and one that I think sets the model for ensuring libraries continue to be a part of our community for the foreseeable future.



You see it isn't just a library; it incorporates the library, Torbay Council Connections, Devon and Cornwall Police Neighbourbood Policing Team, and Adult and Community Learning. It doesn't stop there, though. There is a coffee shop and toilets.

It is a large building, with the mostly glass frontage and inner walls ensuring it is light and airy. The library itself is split over two levels. Level one is fiction, children's books, computer access, and contains numerous seating areas. Level two, which has an open central area overlooking level one, is non-fiction. It also contains a quiet room, more computer access, and a large learning centre. Scattered around level two are alcoves with comfy chairs and tables.

My immediate reaction when walking around the library was, 'Why can't we have something like this in Exmouth?'. My second was, 'This is where I will be coming whenever I am in Paignton and Mr. M is working'. There is something about going to the library that focuses my mind on the task of writing, and if that area comes with helpful amenities, then it has to a winner in my mind.

Do you have a library like this where you live? Do you go there to write? How do you feel about libraries diversifying in this way to survive?

54 comments:

  1. There aren't really any fancy libraries in the area, though you can put holds on books from several surrounding counties, which is very nice. I've written in a library only a few times; never really felt the need to work on a project somewhere other than home, though it can be fun to write in a different setting.

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    1. I think we can do the same at our library, though to be honest I rarely borrow books. I just like going to somewhere quiet and focused.

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  2. Well, at least you found a place to go! Cool library.
    I'm sure David is all right with the mix-up. It happens!

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    1. Thanks, Alex. I'm looking forward to my first writing session there.

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  3. I love libraries. The one in the city on Main Street where I live, shares property with a fire station and City Hall.

    They serve coffee and danish in the morning. And they have sofas and big cushy chairs.

    hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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    1. Sounds like bliss, Shelly. Wish I could visit!

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  4. I love my library. It's the second best in the state and only second best because it's smaller with an equivalently smaller budget. As our library director tries to explain, a library is more than just the paper books on the shelves. But we have some right wing psychos gaining momentum in my community (one of them already elected) who would like to close the library and donate the books and media to a local nonprofit. O_o

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    1. I'm speechless. They want to close it and donate the books? Do they not realise that countless people get enjoyment from borrowing books? Scary times.

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  5. looks like a neat place... i could never write there, i need total silence

    coffee shop is good for snacks, too noisy

    library, for reference books - too noisy and folk moving around

    home - only my dog for distraction... oh yeah - kitchen close, to pack on the pounds :O lol

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    1. I'm not sure how, but something about the background noise helps me concentrate. However, when I'm at home, I need silence or music without lyrics.

      As for snacks . . .I keep meaning to buy healthy foods but chocolate is nicer.

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  6. When I was growing up, our library was like a church. Full of silence and smells and I used to find it almost spiritual. Then I moved and my local library was a vile place that was tatty and dirty and I never went back.

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    1. What a shame, Donna. I wonder if there is anything that can be done to improve it?

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  7. We have a very pleasant and well-supported library. It is a standalone building, no other purpose attached. They do run regular meetings and seminars there, though. I went to one on self-publishing recently.

    Most of my writing is in brief snatches in between other demands, rather than big chunks of time, so I rarely go elsewhere to write. The one exception is when I take my daughter to music lessons. Rather than drive home, I sit in the lounge at the music academy for an hour, and make good progress then.

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    1. Your library sounds ideal, Botanist. As does the music academy!

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  8. Our town's library shares space with a few other occupants so I can this being the way to go since the library is incorporated in some way. As for myself, I mainly go to the library to grab books and go. I tend to do my writing best in the cozy setting of my familiar home surroundings.

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    1. I tend to do most of my writing at home, Angela. Now I have my writing desk, I love it even more.

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  9. There is an amazing library a few (more than a few) suburbs away, that was recently refurbished in a fancy, modern way. But I am ashamed to say I've never been there. I do need to join a public library, so maybe I should join that one. ;) (I work in an academic library)

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    1. You should definitely visit - you may be pleasantly surprised.

      You work in a library? Sounds the prefect job to me, apart from writing.

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    2. Yeah, I work as a systems librarian though, so my role is pretty specialised :) I love my job. Other librarian positions involve a lot of teaching/info lit, and I am not interested in that stuff.

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  10. We have a small library in my local town but sadly I seldom go in as it's opening hours clash with my working ones! The library in Paignton sounds wonderful and probably diversity is the key to their continued survival amid ongoing cuts.

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    1. That is a shame but often the way with opening hours.

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  11. I feel sorry for the little Exmouth Library! I think bigger tables for "group work" is taking over the libraries in a bid to make it more sustainable. I don't know why but that is certainly the thinking behind lots of libraries these days. I think little libraries unable to model itself to the one in Paigton are doomed though! :-( Very sad all round but great for the nice shiny sparkly new one in Paigton!!

    Take care
    x

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  12. No worries, Ellie. I take responsibly for the confusion. I thought I lost my marbles so I looked around and found a few since then. I think they're all accounted for now. :)

    Our library has private tables, with walls. They make for an excellent writing retreat.

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    1. No need to apologise, David. Mix ups happen from time to time.

      Your library sounds like a perfect place to write.

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  13. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I tagged you today for The Next Big Thing. Check it out if you want to play along. :)

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    1. Thank you. I'm not sure when I will be able to do this, as pretty much all my posts until the end of the month are arranged. I will find a time, though!

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  14. Our library here kinda sucks. It's tiny and the books are oooollldddd. Not that I have something against old books, but they're dated. I was looking for parenting books and found stuff from the 80s. Yuck.

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    1. I'm guessing their budget is non-existant. I donated some books to my local library a few years back. They were really quite offish about it. Said they'd have to pay to get them covered. So, I guess they had no budget either.

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  15. I have not been to a local library since... I don't know when. I have no idea what I would find in ours, it was refurbished, well I say refurbished, it was finally built after spending nearly forty years in a couple of 'temporary' terrapins.

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    1. You should visit, Snafu. You could be pleasantly surprised.

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  16. Our library just branched out and has a satellite location in a strip mall. The main library is beautiful. Two floors. I don't write there, but I've borrowed many books, movies, and music. I've gone to many readings there and have read there myself.

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    1. Sounds wonderful, Mary. The branch in the mall seems like a great idea as well. Another way for libraries to survive.

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  17. I definitely think that libraries need to be more diverse. My library is alright, but nothing so great sounding as the one you visited. My favorite library is a bit far off from me, but they have the computer access, a large room in the back for conferences and free movies, and a large selection of films. Still, I think if they had private writing rooms (which I would love), or a cafe, definitely, I'd be much more inclined to go. I love libraries, and I don't want to see them vanish!

    I personally do most of my writing at a cafe with my writing buddies. It makes it easy to stay there for a while if there's food easily had, and plugs.

    Alexandra~

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  18. I love the idea of a coffee shop nearby. I think that's a great way to draw more people to a library.

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    1. I do as well. It makes it more of an event.

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  19. I think libraries have to change with the times, much like other organizations have to adapt if they are to stay afloat. And I love our local library. Wifey took the kids there just yesterday.

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    1. Glad you like yours, Stephen. As you say, they need to adapt to stay alive.

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  20. I too love what you have found! A great discovery~ I understand about the crowd and discomfort. Libraries should be big-so one can roam and find their own nook. My last trip to the library I grabbed a chair and sat behind a stair well. It was private. I couldn't seem to find a quiet spot?! One guy was on a cell phone at a desk. Teens giggling in the corner....if it was a coffee shop I'd be fine with that, but not the library! I am glad you have found a new home :D

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    1. How inconsiderate those people were! A library is a place of quiet, not chit-chat. I hope you have a better experience the next time around.

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  21. The Paignton Library looks great. I would love to hang out there (with you for company :) )

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    1. I'd love to hang out with you too. If only transporters and teleport machines actually worked!

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  22. There is a massive new library opening in Birmingham next year. I can't wait to see it. Meanwhile, our local library has had its hours cut, which is a shame, but there just doesn't seem enough money for everything. As long as it stays open, that's the main thing.

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    1. As much as I would like a better library in Exmouth, having none would be awful.

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  23. Salt Lake City has quite a fancy library downtown, but I don't get to it all that much. It's attached to the museum, features a lot of shops (there's a great comic book store) and has a bakery and coffee shop. It's multi-level and divided like you've described. When I do get down to it, I love it. It's a great place to while away some hours.

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    1. I'd love to visit your library, Michael. Sounds perfect.

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  24. I love a good library, the new one in Brighton is great, nicely designed, evolved from traditional conventions and a good meeting place. Which I suppose is something that libraries have to do if they want to remain in operation and indeed 'current' to our modern living styles.
    The traditional libraries of Surrey are loosing all their paid staff and are starting to be staffed by volunteers, which is great, but doesn't bode well for a long term future.
    *waves from Brighton*

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    1. That does not bode well. I wonder if my library has all paid staff or if some are volunteers? I shall have to look into it.

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  25. Hi Ellie .. pity about the Exmouth library - but the Paignton one sounds just great - and glad you'll be able to write there on occasions.

    I haven't really got into ours in Eastbourne - it's on three floors .. and there are computers - though I do hate sitting next to others! I can only write in peace and quiet .. and that it is here ..

    People talk, sniff (hate that!) .. etc etc .. but I'll be interested to try and be involved a bit if I can ..

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. I went to the library today but I couldn't get a seat anywhere. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks it is perfect for writing!

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  26. we have a very large library. It has quite a bit of space and lots of desks in tucked away areas. the reference section has all the tables together though. wonder if that is a trend or something.

    Hope to see you on Halloween for the Scare Me Blogfest.

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    1. Perhaps it is, Budd. I hope not, though. Sometimes you need a small amount of privacy.

      Scare Me Blogfest? I'm on my way.

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  27. We do have a good library and it's s place I love. They do all sorts of things other than lend books - even Warhammer gaming sessions that I secretly long to join in with! I can't imagine life without libraries and I use ours all the time. But then, I also love being able to download books and read them from wherever I happen to be. And maybe that endangers libraries. Or maybe there's plenty of room for both...

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