Posted by: billpurdue | November 24, 2011

Libraries score own goal – again

I’ve just discovered that, in Nottinghamshire libraries (and I expect in other library systems elsewhere in the UK) when readers make reservations for books they would like to read, an automated system is used to phone up the reader to let him/her know that the book is ready for collection. First we had the self issuing system, avoiding any contact between the reader and the library staff over the counter and now it’s left to a machine to notify readers that their book is due. If after three calls it still hasn’t been possible to get through to the reader, then an actual member of the library staff has to dial your number and actually speak to you in person!

There are still some libraries where you can speak face to face with a librarian over the counter (Pinxton Library, just over the county boundary in Derbyshire is one), but these seem to be getting fewer and fewer. Even my local small library, which is only open about 12 hours a week, now has the self issuing machine. If this carries on we will soon be able to use public libraries without ever seeing, let alone speaking to a member of the staff.

What happened to the days when we could discuss the books we had just read – or not read – with the library staff, asked for some information, or just passed the time of day? When I worked in libraries there were some readers who preferred the library staff to choose books for them – I can’t imagine this happening now. Mind you, even before the new machines came in, at some libraries the staff were discouraged from having a chat to readers. This is all part of what libraries should be about – a place to find a book to read, a book to help someone learn more about a topic, a place to socialise and pass the time of day, a place where people are encouraged to read. Libraries are rapidly losing that personal touch which is so important in this day and age where individuals are increasingly seen as just numbers.

By the way, if you let the libraries know your email address and then change it without letting them know your new address, you may be blocked. That means prevented from borrowing. So be sure to keep your user profile (as I think it is called) up to date

Having got that off my chest, next time I’ll write about a few new titles which have caught my eye in the reviews and in the shops.



  1. Think Bill needs to move on. Libraries will have to adapt this technology to stay open. Supermarkets and banks offer self service but need staff there to advise. So do libraries. As an ex Head of Libraries and son of ‘Woodhus’, believe me!

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