Having already complained to the library service about its ridiculous division of the fiction section into daft categories, the reduction in the number of books available and other matters, I was not impressed to walk in and find a new section dedicated to that well-known genre ‘Supernatural Romance’. Does this really merit an entire bookcase, small though the new bookcases are?

This is in addition to ‘Chick Lit’, ‘Books for Blokes’, ‘Hot Stuff’ – why not group these altogether in a ‘Books for Idiots’ category? We also have ‘Lesbian and Gay Fiction’ – no doubt a ploy to encourage people to ‘out’ themselves in the library by lingering too long in search of an Alan Hollinghurst novel (I’ve never seen anyone else browsing it), ‘Science Fiction/Fantasy’, ‘Horror’,  ‘Sagas’ (generally large print, the province of elderly ladies with bubble perms), ‘Asian Interest’, ‘Classics’, etc. They’ve done away with the ‘Black Fiction’ section but I don’t know if this had anything to do with me emailing to enquire whether they would shelve a James Baldwin novel in ‘Black’ or ‘Lesbian and Gay’ when it just belongs in General Fiction. They’ve since moved James Baldwin books into ‘Classics’.

Also, with the advent of self-service, customers are discouraged from initiating any interaction with library staff. I’ve been accosted for guidance several times by various people unable to get to grips with the machines and who would rather a librarian did this job for them. No concession is made for the less techno-savvy, however, and, should they dare approach the desk with a book, they are dispatched to the machines with a flea in their ear. No, I have to say that the staff will accompany neophytes to the machine and demonstrate it for them but I wonder how many potential borrowers, in addition to my Dad, are simply too embarrassed to have to keep asking for help and give up on the library as a bad job altogether.

Many of the more mature have mastered the internet, of course, but a minority of them have been basically disenfranchised by the advent of websites and online methods for everything. It’s not that they can’t learn but that they don’t really see why they should have to at their age. And who can blame them?

One innovation that gets my thumbs up, however, is the introduction of loyalty cards – borrow six books and you can borrow a DVD for free. For regular borrowers like me, this means that I’m rewarded for doing something that I would have done anyway and at no expense. Result. The downside is that the range of DVDs available is pretty limited. But I’ve filled another card and am about to head out to a more distant branch to borrow a couple of Timothy Olyphant movies to save me from Christmas TV dross.


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