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I Want of a Library
From Line, Maurice B. Designing libraries round human beings. Aslib
Proceedings, 50(8), September 1998, 221-229.
- An attractive
building (ugly ones are not pleasant to work in).
- A friendly
and informal physical atmosphere (buildings can be friendly or forbidding).
(but not excessive) opening hours.
seats for working (but not so comfortable that they induce sleep).
- 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).
- A coffee
shop, where I can relax, refresh myself, mix with other users and
with library staff
- A minimum
of rules (but a few clear principles).
- A self-usable
arrangement and system (I should not need to ask any directions).
- 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).
- 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).
- A selection
of older material, including 'classics' and standard works.
- A good
collection of reference books (in whatever format).
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).
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).
- 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).
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).
- A shelf
arrangement that aids browsing (I do not want detailed classification).
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).
machines on every floor of the library: easy and fast to use, cheap
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
- 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).
pay as little as possible for access to information.
Line, 10 Blackthorn Lane, Burn Bridge, Harrogate HG3 1NZ, UK tel:
(00 44) 1423 872984 fax: (0044) 1423 879849