Saturday, 5 March 2011

When St James's Library closes in September, we all suffer

Its obvious to anyone who has spent any amount of time in a library in recent years that the building is not merely a storage space for books. For some, its sanctuary, others an invaluable tool but most go with the intention of seeing a friendly human face that can help then with whatever problem they may have. Only those who are wealthy enough and self-serving enough could detach themselves from passions and needs of these people for unnecessary and short-term gain.

Those who will be most negatively affected by the closure of St. James' Library live in and around the Old Pye Estate, particularly the elderly who have mobility issues. Also the local schools will have to seek alternative support, in 2009/10 there were 166 class and nursery visits with staff attending schools and nurseries on 69 occasions. On top of this, a high proportion of students from Westminster City School are key library users who will certainly feel the effects of the closure.

Please read:

"We had Dean in again today. He's a young man with cerebral palsy. Mark, our manager, does all he can to help Dean. He helps Dean out with daily essentials and attempts to find him care and housing help. Dean can be quite demanding. 

We had some more shouters in this week. Customers who, for one reason or another, take against the staff and other customers and become noisy and disruptive. We've had to ask some to leave. Others have brought in all their worldly goods. Others have been so unhygienic as to attract complaints from other customers. We've asked them to leave, clean up, find somewhere for their luggage, then they're welcome to return.
We've had people in who've obviously been mentally unwell, who have asked for help. For things both relevant and irrelevant. And they've been helped. Provided with information. Advice where possible. And then gone on their way."

"We've had customers who we've suspected of being drunk, or high. We've dealt with them. Humoured them, mostly. Seen that they've got everything they needed.

Most of the customers have been great. As usual. friendly, engaged, interested, talkative. We've spoken to them about their reading habits, about their library use and any concerns, general chit-chat and small talk and some, who have forged friendships with the staff, have stayed and talked a little longer.
Some customers, without the debility of mental illness or addiction, can prove a handful nonetheless. These customers are recognised and persevered with. All staff know the signs and spot the recidivists. We attempt to engage with them. We attempt to make their visits fruitful and enjoyable. We pursue their complaints. Log their requests. Apologise for their dissatisfaction.
Soon, at St James's we won't be doing that any more. I think we'll be missed. By all sorts."

"We have quite a few peers in. The occasional MP. We service the House of Commons library. Lots of lobbyists. Members of the Royal Household. Scotland Yard. We get quite a few soldiers on their way to and from war-zones. We get their wives in with their kids. We get office workers, bureaucrats, shop assistants, traffic wardens, street sweepers, caterers, barristers, flight attendants, pensioners, bankers, directors, schoolkids, carers... American, Poles, Italians, Japanese, French, Russians, Somalis, Irish, Ethiopians, Spanish...

We'll miss them, too."

No comments:

Post a Comment