Saturday, 1 April 2017

A visit to Southsea Library

Outside my local library there has been placed a large yellow banner which bears the headline – “Read a book –Live longer!” Beneath this the additional information that reading can reduce stress, increase your well being and stave off the onset of dementia. In the smallest print at the bottom and almost as an afterthought it mentions that your visit to the library may also furnish the possibility of “enjoying a good read.”

I venture into the library which, cheek by jowel with the bookshelves and reading tables, incorporates a shop selling seaside knick knacks, a café where people sit and chat as one does in a café, and a circular ‘community area’ which is today occupied by a ring of young parents and their toddler offspring. A young Muslim woman leads them loudly in a round of “Let’s do the hokey kokey!” I feel no hostility to this group but simply bemusement at what libraries have become. There is no doubt that many would see this tableau as evidence of vibrant community activity and many would coo and sigh at the spectacle of cute and joyously gurgling toddlers. One senses that to even venture the opinion that it might be difficult to, well, concentrate on reading a book or doing some written work (the things I used to do in libraries) in these circumstances, would probably bring down opprobrium and accusations of heartlessness and curmugeonliness on one’s head. For the mere presence of cute small children negates any possibility of demurring. I leave wondering if the local kindergarten would be a good place to read quietly.

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