Sunday, 21 September 2008

Eat, drink and be merry... in the library?

There has been a bit of a hoo-ha in the media, particularly the Times, about some public libraries allowing people to eat and drink there. Many libraries have had rules and regulations, often by-laws which forbid this. These would probably need to be changed by the local council. They were also there for a good reason. It's not very nice borrowing books that are full of stains from dropped food, or even have bits of food in them, but library staff cannot do anything about books which are borrowed and eaten over at home. Banning food and drink in libraries is basically about keeping things clean and tidy - who wants to come and sit and work in an environment that has food wrappers, half-drunk cans of fizzy drink or spilt drinks everywhere. Surveys have shown that most people only stay in the library for a short time - less than ten minutes. Do they really need to eat and drink in that time? Who is going to control the anti-social kids who decide to start chucking their burgers and chips about just to wind each other up for the fun of it. I don't think that letting the public eat and drink while using a public library is a progressive step, I think its a backward one. I'm surprised to learn that there are still libraries that ban talking, as in my experience, there has never been a silence rule in public libraries, except possibly in some major reference libraries, where people may stay and work for longer periods. Most local branch libraries are much more casual, although they don't encourage mobile phones, as these are disrupting for other readers and also unhelpful when staff are trying to deal with a reader's query while they are talking to someone else on their mobile.

1 comment:

Dale said...

I think food and drink in a public library can be a fine thing. When I first worked in libraries (in 1980), we had a separate room with appropriate tables for library users to eat and drink. Books had to be checked out of the library before being taken to this room. Mostly students used it and they mostly used it to study--often for several hours at a time.

When the building and local use make for sensible and tidy food in the library, that works.

Often, though, the design of the building doesn't work well. Or people are mostly in the building for a short time, in which case, as you note, there's really no reason to allow/encourage folks to eat and drink.

Research collections with archival materials, obviously cannot allow food and drink, as crumbs and moisture can change the environment in ways that could lead to damage of the collections.

There's no one perfect way for every library to go.

google tracker