Saturday, 8 February 2014

National Libraries Day 2014 #NLD14

Another National Libraries Day - is this the 3rd or 4th? - I can't remember but it's definitely something to look forward to.

NLD13 blog post
NLD12 blog post

#savelibraries blogpost Feb11

An excuse, if any is ever needed, to visit libraries, to persuade others to visit libraries and to promote libraries especially via social media.

This year the library where I work, Heriot-Watt University library, is open to visitors on a National Libraries Day. The library is usually open on Saturdays but we have promoted the fact that it is open and also organised a display and some leaflets.
I was undecided whether to stay in Edinburgh this weekend or come back to Durham but decided to come home as it was Book Club meeting at my friends house and I wanted to catch up.
I made a slower start than usual today due to other family commitments ie visiting my mum and the cat then picking up T2 from station but this afternoon we set off to visit a library I've not been to before. The one I'd picked is Washington (Tyne & Wear) town centre one. Washington is in between Durham, Sunderland and Newcastle and is a new town and has a big shopping centre called the Galleries. (There is Washington Old Hall which is a National Trust place). The library is situated in the shopping centre and we managed to negotiate our way through the Saturday afternoon crowds to find it.

It is a very nice library - typical town centre public library with lots of fiction books but bright and cheerful and appealing.
They did have a sign in the entrance about National Libraries Day which is an improvement on a couple of years ago when I visited about 6 libraries and none had anything about it.
There were lots of children's books including information books. The displays were cheerful and there was a good selection available.

I liked the teenage section with the groovy chairs and writing on the wall.
They also had some books for sale which were too difficult to resist.
All in all, a cool place.

Next on the list was Gateshead library which I have visited before. I googled to see if it was open and it was but I should have checked the actual Gateshead libraries website because when we got there it was closed.

Luckily the Shipley Art Gallery is practically next door and it was open. The Shipley Art Gallery is fantastic and one of our regular places we visit. It has great exhibitions and is a beautiful building. There is always something of interest and useful things in the shop. We sometimes go there after we have visited the Baltic Art Gallery and it is a good antidote.....

So onto Durham and to the Clayport library in the city centre. This is one of my regular libraries as it is in County Durham the same as a Sedgefield where I live. It's in a big modern building opposite the Gala theatre. Again lots of fiction books, great selection.
A good young children's area which is always full of noisy small children and conscientious parents......

I don't know the difference between novels and fiction but that matters not. Again, a sign and display for National Libraries Day but not as wow or exciting as I would have thought. But in the current climate maybe that's all that's available or wanted / needed. I can never quite discern the vibe or atmosphere at Clayport library - it's slightly different but I'm not sure why. Downstairs is the digital media stuff - computers, DVDs, music, graphic novels - quite good and well used.

Upstairs is the reference library which I've never used but has computers and some book stacks. On the stairs was a picture I liked of the Miners Gala.

So a good afternoon visiting libraries. It's inconvenient that lots of public libraries are not open Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Personally I think that if they were they would be used more as a space and resource by a wider audience. Lots of people who work or have other commitments like reading and like going yo interesting buildings to read and sit and drink tea and coffee and eat cake - why can't libraries be those places??

Monday, 3 February 2014

Library of Birmingham

I visited the Library of Birmingham last year when I was in Birmingham for an Association for Learning Technology meeting at Aston Business School.
The library is an impressive building from the outside, a great landmark for the city.

The entrance foyer is spacious with plenty of room for people to gather and to wander around and enjoy the space.  There are lots of colourful displays and appealing things to look at.  There are books on each floor but the overwhelming impression is of space and places to explore and find out information.  There were a lot of people about but it didn't seem crowded and it wasn't noisy.

On the ground floor / lower ground floor there was a great space to look at books and sit and read.  These red chairs pictured below were very popular and perfect for relaxing and escaping.

The groovy blue escalators give the library a wow factor and I explored each floor.  At first I was a bit disappointed that the first floor didn't have many books but it was a good space to wander around and to sit and read or chat with groups of people and friends.

As you make your way up the floors there are more books although some of the subject areas were not obvious to me but I assume this would be easier if i had been looking for something specific.  Also I was expecting to find the layout familiar on my first visit which wasn't the case.

The library has definitely got the wow factor and is a very positive space with lots of users.
From my point of view I do think the space is important - a library space or a learning space or a being safe space - sometimes more important than the contents.