Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Statute of the Blessed Virgin in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Church, UCD Belfield

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Former Irish Government Minister Berates Current Irish Government Minister on the Idea of Staffless Libraries

As published in The Irish Times.

"A library is a place of human interaction." Well, not really-- at least, that hardly seems one of its defining characteristics.

I don't like the idea of staffless libraries, but I think it should be (or at least, it will be) the public who decides whether they want or don't want them. Libraries themselves have been cutting their own throats by pushing people towards self-service machines and trying to make every interaction an online interaction, The argument is always that there is more productive, stimulating work to be done behind the scenes and that it is "freeing up staff". But the public is always dubious when they are told about all the important work that goes on behind the scenes, whether it's the police, hospitals, banks or libraries. And can you blame them?

I was arguing passionately against the dehumanisation of libraries seven or eight years ago. Few people in my own library bothered to support me. I can't get very worked up about it now. What will be, will be.

6 comments:

  1. Our local bank had a radical transformation recently. I don't know whether the same happens in Ireland. It moved location, but that wasn't all. There are only two regular tellers, and no barrier of any sort protecting them.( I assume the money is somehow dispensed through a wall machine, making barriers unnecessary,I didn't really notice). At the door one is greeted by a person who, nine out of ten times, shows them to a table of computers where they are helped to help themselves-if we could all do that we wouldn't be there! When I told the lady that I wasn't really an internet or computer user, especially with finance she seemed totally bemused. I was directed to the one teller-interestingly a lady of about 60(much older than the rest of the staff)-they seemed to surmise that only the more mature would need her. A week later, just before Christmas I noticed that queues to the two teller spaces are already a problem.... And they didn't all have walking sticks either

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    1. I've had the same experience working in the library, Seamus. It's by no means always the older students who struggle with our website. Sometimes it's students in their twenties an that's awlays a surprise, especialyl when they admit they are terrible with computers.

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    2. Séamus, AustraliaJanuary 18, 2017 at 4:24 AM

      You actually brought something else to my mind also: in Perth we had a book store named Borders, which I think was actually part of an American conglomerate(don't know of you had them there but it was similar to the EASON'S of my childhood memories). It was well stocked (perhaps too well) but on occasions that a book or author couldn't be found, even common ones-a chap I was with who had become a catholic was looking for anything by Chesterton- the manager(who was fairly hands-on always floating around )would always tell people to read it on the internet as he said paper books would be non-existent in several decades. The entire chain went belly-up in Australia, which is hardly surprising if the admin all the same attitude. Certainly, it must be said that far too much rubbish is in print, not worth chopping down trees for. Is not something decent worth having in print however? The same fellow reasoned that owning a book was the same thing as carrying the amount of water you need for the next month around with you. I'd personally prefer if they tried to cut down on supermarket ads first. A mature aged lady, but more computer literate than me, asked how anyone could really predict that?

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    3. I've read a lot of books by Chesterton on the internet but it's much nicer having them in print. Actually, it's rare that I would want to read a book on internet-- it's mostly only Chesterton books that I've read on the net, along with maybe half a dozen others. Chesterton books tend to be short, longer books are even less rewarding to read on the internet. Having said all that I've never used Kindle.

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  2. Séamus, AustraliaJanuary 18, 2017 at 5:15 AM

    I don't think I'd have the self-discipline to ever finish even a short book unless I actually had to read it physically, cover to cover. Also, there's something Orwellian about the idea ofeverything being sourced electronically (remember the guy in 1984 was employed to change history as it suited the government?-one flaw in the book,I always thought was just that: How could every copy of everything be controlled?, it's a definitely a reality if nothing actually gets printed isn't it?)

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    1. I've had the same thoughts, about the basic integrity of any given text when it is no longer in hard print. If there are multiple electronic copies, which I suppose there would be of most texts, I guess that is a different story.

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