The problem with living in a golden age of TV is that there’s no time to read.
That’s probably a bit broad. Whatever. I’m cat-sitting for a friend at the moment, and am very, very aware of their impressively big TV. It’s probably not really that big, but compared to my 15 inch laptop screen, it’s huge. I’m convinced that it’s positioned itself to loom over the sofa, like a self-aware machine trying to intimidate me into worshiping it when it’s securely fastened to the wall.
A couple of nights ago, I watched Everything Everywhere All At Once on it with a friend and we worried that the sound would upset the neighbours. Then we were too busy laughing and crying at the film to care.
This afternoon, I just finished watching the first part of the fourth series of You. You is a sort of guilty pleasure for the terrified feminist. We’re all secretly hoping Joe gets away with it, right? It’s problematic on so many levels, I know I know I know.
So now I’m caught up I decided to read some books and went to the library.
The library is, thankfully, still open on Mondays. I was feeling optimistic about my reading prowess and time while it’s just me and the cat, so I took out these books to distract me from the big black holy rectangle:
Bernadine Evaristo’s Manifesto On Never Giving Up
Kikuko Tsumura’s There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job
Ben Okri’s Wild
Time will tell if I start reading them or get distracted by the TV again tonight (nobody recommend anything to me!). I’ve got Kathleen Jamie’s Surfacing to read for book club, and Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom with me too, neither of which I’ve got to the second chapter of yet. There’s time.
I realised I’ve not updated The Internet on the story of my post back in August where I shared my letter of complaint about the inadequate library opening hours in the Scottish Borders (read it here). I did in fact receive a response within a reasonable time! And it was as bland and patronising as I’d expected it to be. So bland that I couldn’t let it take over my (fairly busy, actually) life while I wrote an angry response. It’s taken a while, but here I am, going to the library on a Monday.
(low effort drumroll please)
here it is:
We opened our libraries slowly and gradually following Covid to ensure we were keeping both our readers and our staff safe.
Since last July (2021) we have actually increased the opening hours for all the Live Borders Libraries. Post pandemic budgets are tight and opening hours have to be tailored to give us the best fit for the budget and we will continue to review visitor figures and listen to demand and see if there is a case to open alternative hours.
We do take a global overview of library opening hours, Peebles is open on a Saturday because it is now a co-located Library museum site. Both services are free, although we do encourage donations. Museums are in a position to generate income through exhibition sales and cater to a slightly different audience, hence the Saturday opening to cater to visitors to the Borders.
Our global overview does of course extend to our digital stock and its usage. In considering opening hours we reviewed historical usage stats to ascertain the likeliest busiest times and have opened on the busiest days and times. We are also working in a very tight budgetary situation with limited staffing resources. People can use our digital resources without having to visit the library in person. Would you like information on Borrowbox for e-books and audiobooks and Pressreader for e-magazines and e-newspapers to distribute to the community? We also offer the connect and collect service whereby you can order physical books and a family member or friend can collect the books for you if the library is not open when it suits you.
With regard to loss of sanctuary, yes libraries are and always have been a safe, warm, neutral space. However, our greatly reduced management fee means that we cannot offer the extended opening hours of years gone by. I think there has actually been a paradigm shift in how people see and use their free time during and after the pandemic. This has impacted on how people access our services – we are seeing a move away from more traditional usage to an increased uptake of our digital resources which can be accessed 24/7.
As with our sister services in leisure we are continually reviewing and monitoring library use and demand. Your letter has been retained on file and will be considered as part of any future reviews.
(I’m hesitant to list the member of staff who wrote this here, because my letter wasn’t replied to by the persons I’d actually written to, I’m not sure it totally matters who in Live Borders actually wrote it, so I’ll attempt to not get into a personal feud and not mention the actual person’s name. Their job title didn’t seem to sound like it’s got anything to do with libraries, or being high enough up to make any change happen, but I could be wrong about it, I’ve had my share of silly job titles.)
Here’s some short exasperated responses, which I’ve not decided if I’ll form into a letter-like response yet, but at least it feels like I’m continuing the fight:
“We opened our libraries slowly and gradually following Covid to ensure we were keeping both our readers and our staff safe. ”
I’m pretty sure I didn’t say they should have ignored advice and opened if it wasn’t safe to do so…
“we have actually increased the opening hours“
Well that still doesn’t mean they’re enough.
“best fit for the budget“
Says it all, really.
“Peebles is open on a Saturday because it is now a co-located Library museum site.”
What I’m getting here is that it’s not that Peebles is special and deserves to have its library open on a Saturday, it’s just lucky that there’s a little stream of revenue attached in the museum shop that can justify it. Yay capitalism!
“We are also working in a very tight budgetary situation with limited staffing resources.”
I know, me too! If I’d bought the three books I borrowed today it would have cost £36.97. That’s more than my last food shop was.
“People can use our digital resources without having to visit the library in person.”
I literally, literally! explained that I worked in the libraries, it was a big part of my job to let customers know digital offering of the library exists. Was I working towards the downfall of the libraries by doing this, is it justifying the slow death of in-person libraries? Please tell me I wasn’t.
“I think there has actually been a paradigm shift in how people see and use their free time during and after the pandemic.“
Firstly, that’s a massive change of subject. I can’t find an answer to the loss of sanctuary and warm spaces and I’m curious about this line. Things have returned to a different kind of normal post pandemic restrictions, but it does make me wonder, where any sort of data is coming from to back up this statement to start with. Am I, at the age of 30, just from ye olde millennial generation pining for the good old days when the economy was slightly less of a disaster? Can we blame these changes just on Covid, or 12 years of Tories in government? or worldwide changes in how entertainment is available? The statistics that may show a decline in library use aren’t singly saying “people don’t want to go to libraries anymore” they’re also a pretty stark statement on the lack of promotion and availability of library services and many infinite other reasons (but mostly neglect of library budgets). If you shut the doors, people will still come, they’ll just turn around and not come again when they find they can’t get in.
“sister services in leisure”
Read: sexier, shinier, income-generating services. I have a good experience at every other Live Borders service I use, especially their leisure centres, but the one I really care about that isn’t also available from a private provider is The Libraries. Maybe that could make them a little bit important?
So yeah, hopefully the magic money fairy will appear and fix everyone’s budgeting problems and everything will be as nice as the leisure centres are. Fingers crossed, no worries if not!
No worries if not!
(I think there’s a way to preview this but I can’t find it, I just am feeling very VulgaDrawings after writing this.)
Everything Everywhere All At Once (I thoroughly recommend.) JUST LOOK AT THE POSTER!!!!!
You (honestly not sure if I recommend but it’s bingeworthy and I need to know what happens next)
Article about S4 of You where they also talk about Everything Everywhere All At Once briefly here (don’t think there’s a paywall?)
Read my original blog / letter about the rubbish opening times of libraries in the Scottish Borders here
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