Libraries Don’t even think of entering the doors of your local library if it’s a quiet half-hour you’re after. Last week I was almost knocked over by a horde of shrieking children dressed as clowns. Apparently it was circus-theme week and a juggler had been invited. Soft balls were flying everywhere and the leaflet rack went tumbling. I took cover in the quiet room where I interrupted four teenagers having an early lunch – Subway sandwiches and cans of cola. Each was wired up and peering into a computer screen where the world appeared to be in a state of apocalypse and robots stomped round blowing up cars with tank-sized automatics.
A few mornings later, with the bigger kids back at school, I walked confidently up the library steps to discover it was baby and toddler story and sing time. As a rule, the stories don’t really disturb me since the senior librarian with the bun reads them in such a soft, monotonous tone they would make anyone fall asleep. No, it’s the community singalong I find grating. How many verses are there to ‘Nick Nack Paddy Wack’ and ‘Ten Green Bottles’? When it got to ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ I was just happy to get out of there.
Recently, the council set up an information service in a recess by the coffee machine. Mothers with children, old chaps with walkers, young men with tattoo necklaces and sweet little ladies with flasks sat patiently on plastic chairs, chatting away like old friends while waiting to sort out their rent arrears and blocked drains. A saxophone player is booked to give a lunchtime concert anytime soon and a historian from Yarmouth is coming to give a talk on the extinct herring industry. The librarians cheerfully invite me to talks and music recitals but I always decline. I just want the library to go back to what it was. Pin-drop quiet, a haven, a sanctuary. Where all you did was read a book and where the ogress of a head librarian gave you the evil eye for merely rustling your carrier bag. PAMELA ORMONDROYD