Wednesday, 11 April 2012

There's life in the Library yet

West Bridgford Library about 1939
The 1st March 2012 was 'World Book day', and something special was happening in West Bridgford. We were going to get an improved library.

My eldest son started his library career stamping books behind the counter, and has now reached the prestigious position of Director of Senate House Libraries at the University of London.

In his view, (which is also the view of others who have been in library services for a long time) they have always had to live with the question of the future of libraries, and their potential imminent demise. There are certainly many articles on-line which over the past twenty years have been discussing these matters. But like Mark Twain, after hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal, libraries could say that, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated".

Nottinghamshire County Council is one of the largest education authorities in the country, and in addition to supporting 358 schools, it runs over 60 libraries as well as seven mobile libraries.

In the Borough of Rushcliffe, there are nine key libraries, of which one is the West Bridgford Library. Work has started on a major £5.3 million re-development programme, which by the Spring of 2013 will see a vastly improved library service, and a brand new young people's centre. It was on the 1st March 2012 that the turf-cutting ceremony took place. According to the County Council's web site, "The flagship West Bridgford library development is the latest in the county council's plan to continue to invest, develop and remodel its existing libraries to be able to continue to serve traditional library users and meet the demand for digital services and reach out to new audiences".

There is sound judgement here in recognising that traditional users are important; that digital services are part of the present, and that libraries will only flourish in the future if they attract new audiences. The current library building was built in 1938 or 1939 (depending on who you read), which makes it contemporary with The Test Match pub. (Irrelevant I know, but it's my local, so it's worth a mention). I was so pleased to see that the new service will retain the original building, while having a brand new, modern young people's centre built on the back of it. From the sketches that are available, the two designs seem to fit well together. Too many fine historic buildings have been lost in Nottingham over the years, so it is a tribute to the county planners that they have kept this fine 1930's building. If I sound like Prince Charles I don't care; I believe it.

In reading blog comments elsewhere, some people seem to be afraid that new library space will be taken up with children's areas, DVD's, CD's and computers, leaving less space for actual physical books. If this was the case, I too would be concerned.

However, at West Bridgford we are promised "two floors filled with books". Yes there will also be a dedicated children's area as well as increased "free use of computers, internet and wi-fi". 

In addition there will be a new Shopmobility service, and the Registrar's Office will move from Bridgford Hall into the building. In keeping with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, the whole building will be fully accessible.

I like the sound of it, and it will bring people in through the doors for a range of reasons, which will help to legitimise its presence. Throughput (or footfall) is everything, and it is not inconceivable to think of people coming in for Shopmobility or the Registrar, who also find themselves viewing the books.

I also think that it's very creative to build a modern two-story young people's centre at the rear of the present building. The Council say that this will include:

  • a fantastic meeting place
  • recording studio
  • performance area
  • dance area
The strapline for Rushcliffe Borough Council is, "Great Place - Great Lifestyle - Great Sport". While this may border on hyperbole, the new young people's centre will be a great place for West Bridgford's creative young people to develop and showcase their talents.  

I've been critical of Council in the past, and I stand by that, but credit where credit is due. The re-developed site on Bridgford Road is very exciting, and shows that there's life in the library yet. It's down to us residents to make sure that we use it. I for one have my library card at the ready.

No comments:

Post a Comment