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What I Want of a Library

With permission From  Line, Maurice B. Designing libraries round human beings.  Aslib
Proceedings, 50(8), September 1998, 221-229.

  1. An attractive building (ugly ones are not pleasant to work in).
  2. A friendly and informal physical atmosphere (buildings can be friendly or forbidding).
  3. Long (but not excessive) opening hours.
  4. Comfortable seats for working (but not so comfortable that they induce sleep).
  5. A variety of study areas, where I can if I wish study quietly or have group discussion (I want to use the library as a community centre, where I can discuss my work with others from time to time; in any case, few people want silence all the time).
  6. A coffee shop, where I can relax, refresh myself, mix with other users and with library staff
  7. A minimum of rules (but a few clear principles).
  8. A self-usable arrangement and system (I should not need to ask any directions).
  9. A wide range of current material for browsing, selected according to what the library discovers its clientele needs (I want to see what the latest material is on a variety of topics - and I mean latest, not three or six months old).
  10. A high proportion of what I want in the collection and on the spot (i.e. not on loan) (unless I am working on an esoteric subject, in which very few if any other people are interested, I would expect 70% of my needs to be met locally).
  11. A selection of older material, including 'classics' and standard works.
  12. A good collection of reference books (in whatever format).
  13. Simple and speedy procedures for borrowing and returning books etc. (I do not want to stand in long queues waiting to borrow books, or fill in long and complex forms).
  14. The ability to access a variety of media from one workstation (ideally I ought to be able to access digitized printed matter and audiovisual material from the same place).
  15. A catalogue that:   is easy to use   is accessible on every floor of the library, from home and from    other remote sites   contains all the library's holdings in one sequence, and that offers    a variety of access points, including and especially subject terms    (I do not want to search several sequences, whether divided by date or format).
  16. Speedy access to resources that are not held in the library, both bibliographically (i.e. through integrated access to union catalogues) and physically (i.e. the documents themselves) (I expect the library to use the fastest and most efficient method to locate and  obtain wanted items for me).
  17. A shelf arrangement that aids browsing (I do not want detailed classification).
  18. Good access to information tools that are produced by others (e.g. commercial indexing and abstracting services), if possible with unified front ends (ideally, I want to access all databases using the same software - the system would convert my search terms to those used by each database).
  19. Copying machines on every floor of the library: easy and fast to use, cheap and reliable.
  20. Friendly and helpful staff, who are bibliographically and technically knowledgeable, who are visible and who invite inquiries (i.e. they do not bury their heads in books when I approach), and who tolerate questions that seem stupid to them, but who behave like this genuinely, not just as a matter of duty or artificial politeness (e.g. I don't want staff who say mechanically 'have a nice day' - especially when it is eight o'clock at night.  The image of friendliness must not be a substitute for the reality.)
  21. A willingness on the part of management and staff to accept criticism and suggestions, to act on them where appropriate, and to respond whether or not action is taken. (I do not expect all my requests and suggestions to be acted upon, but I do want answers to them all).
  22. To pay as little as possible for access to information.

Maurice B. Line, 10 Blackthorn Lane, Burn Bridge, Harrogate HG3 1NZ, UK     tel: (00 44) 1423 872984     fax: (0044) 1423 879849
http://www.lib.duke.edu/lubans/john.html