AS one who spent almost a decade of his early life working as a public and academic librarian, I feel impelled to comment on how our public libraries have long ceased to be havens of peace and quiet, or to serve as refuges for private study and serious contemplation.

Instead, disorder and commotion reign, the buildings little more than play grounds for resentful toddlers, who are dropped off in the mornings to be subjected to raucous nursery rhymes recited ad nauseam, and for older children who flood in after school with deafening screams and shouts, racing around and playing hide and seek in the afternoons.

Adults more often than not enter only to gossip and noisily socialise with friends, make phone calls, engage in rowdy committee meetings or job interviews, the library staff meanwhile looking benignly on or engaging in very audible chit chat and small talk among themselves.

This raises obvious questions. Why are public libraries so neglectful of those who yearn for a civilised, non-threatening atmosphere and wish only to make beneficial use of their limited resources? The thoughtless and ruthless decimation of book stocks in recent years to make space for personal computers and concomitant disappearance of most book cases has reduced their interiors to mere shells of what they once were, the resulting open plan layouts crying out for reallocation with new meeting rooms, work tables or private booths.

When will our hopelessly unimaginative council wake up and take action to address this pressing issue? Or must public libraries be forever the Cinderellas of responsible management, planning and adequate funding on the part of local government?


Julyan Avenue, Poole