The library has diversified to try and follow demand. They’ve expanded their range of offerings and now the under utilised reference stacks and dusty microfiche machines vie for space with the media lab and tool library, the meeting rooms and co-working spaces, the community garden and the chill-out zone.
All we can do is try and meet people where they are at, says Gladys (older than 30: she refuses to be drawn further, but is probably closer to 70). The local newspaper archives – now digitised and fully searchable back to the first edition in 1963 – were moved to off-site storage and the space became a video-conference suite.
Numbers are up, most of the staff tell me, but add, strictly off the record, that the new patrons are not “our sort of people”. They’re not here for the books, the newspapers, the journals – or for reading at all. Just the coffee, the wifi, the workshops and the space.
Gladys seems content to be here, amongst her nearest and dearest – the fiction and non-fiction alike.
However, the books are rather a distraction and an obstruction for most of the visitors these days. Still, numbers are what matter – there are more and more members signing up for the library every month. Members get first access to the meeting rooms, and priority wifi, after all.
Gladys tells me that the facilities are due for another upgrade. The ageing internet service just copes with the demand at peak times. Council have offered to put in a better service, but Gladys is holding out until they can commit.
“Unless we can do it properly,” Gladys explains, “and get in a symmetric layer 3 TC2 FTTP service, why bother? You pay twice for half measures, my old dad used to say. Hybrid copper to the node? My ass.”
Constructed from marine ply, wood veneers, acrylic, paper and upcycled cardboard, measuring 400 x 200 x 15mm. Laser cut and etched, then hand finished with acrylics and miniature weathered travel posters.