Monday, November 8th, 2010
It probably won’t surprise any of you to learn that I am someone who has spent a lot of time hanging around in libraries. From the excellent public libraries of Canberra, where I grew up, to school and university libraries, I’ve been remarkably well-served when it comes to access to as many books as I could carry (or at least as many as I was permitted to borrow). I’m currently working part-time in a library, and it got me wondering what makes a good library.
1. A wide range of books
This probably seems kind of self-explanatory, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. A library really needs to have the books that its users want. This means different things for different libraries. Academic libraries obviously need different books to public libraries. The important thing, in each case, is access. It’s no good having all the right books if one person can borrow them and constantly renew them (as an undergrad, this would tend to initiate what was known as a ‘recall war’ among students, as various students would recall the book in an attempt to borrow it). Most academic libraries I’ve used get around this problem by having key critical works reserved on short loan. Sydney Uni’s Fisher Library had a section called Special Reserve where students could only read books within the library. Course coordinators could organise for required reading to be put in Special Reserve for the duration of a semester. (more…)