REAL PUBLIC LIBRARIAN

Friday, February 22, 2008

Library Sit In

We've just had the carpets replaced throughout at our main library (now that's an experience!), and during the reshuffling we took the opportunity to widen the aisles to 1.2 metres of actual open space from edge of shelf to edge of shelf - mainly to comply with wheelchair accessibility - but it has had some wonderful unintended consequences! One of the downsides of course to widening the aisles is less room for "stuff" mainly book stacks, which has created a bit of a problem - however, I am starting to think that the greatly increased amenity for humans far outways this problematic consequence! We (the staff) have been struck by the good feeling we get from walking into and working in what appears to be a more spacious library (it's not of course, it's the same square metreage as before), and this has been mirrored by the significant number of spontaneous favourable customer comments.

But one unforeseen consequence of bigger aisles (and brand new bouncy carpet no doubt) is the immediately noticed propensity for people to sit on the floor in the aisles while they go through the bottom two shelves of books in the non-fiction section (obviously looking for something specific or just thoroughly browsing their favourite section). Now is this a bad thing or a good thing? Doesn't it obstruct other borrowers or potentially even, those wheelchair users that we widened the aisles for in the first place? And yet, if only I could adequately describe the impression of people relaxing, enjoying this simple act (often in pairs, mainly the under 50s age demographic) - owning the space, feeling right at home - but also being very polite and moving out of the way if necessary (there's still generally enough room for people to walk past those sitting on the floor) - after all, human bodies are not immovable objects, especially when they are attached to polite individuals who more than happily make way for other people (and wheelchairs) - well I would have to say that the sheer feeling of delight that this simple new rearrangement has created is well worth the loss of room for books...(What to do about that is another issue, it's weighing up the tradeoff between creating room and weeding, but that's a debate for another time...) While there is the aspiration in libraries to "do away" with bottom shelves (ah the luxury of that much room!!! who has actually achieved this, and actually stuck with it beyond a year into opening day??), maybe building in luxurious floor space for sitting on is a legitimate design consideration? (Not in the large print section, obviously!)

2 Comments:

  • I know exactly what you mean - we've done a fair bit of shifting of shelves and revamping the layout over the past 8 months and have come up with a spacious floorplan which not only gave us more shelf space but also room to put out more lounge seating in strategic places. It is so good to see people coming to get books and staying to enjoy the relaxing surroundings.

    By Blogger R&R Library, at 11:59 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:10 AM  

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