Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Day Four - Mitchell Library

For our first day of research, we headed into Glasgow for a day at the Mitchell Library. The Mitchell is reportedly the largest library in Europe. It is housed in a grand old building, with newer buildings annexed on.

The Glasgow Archives are on the second floor and have a number of very useful items. The Archivist is most helpful. On the third floor, there is an area where you can gain access to the internet on a timed basis and you are free to use resources such as Scotland's People. Discount credits can be purchased for use either on your own laptop or on the library's computers. The third floor also houses the Family History Centre where you can have unlimited access to Scotland's People for a day use fee. Unfortunately there are only five computers that are not reserved and so you take your chances in going without pre-booking. The other unfortunate thing is that if someone has pre-booked and doesn't show, the computer sits empty all day, as we witnessed. The staff were neither friendly nor helpful and if you want to access SP for a day of unlimited use, it is worth making the trip into Edinburgh instead.

The libraries in Scotland are under review and are facing budget constraints, staffing cuts and, in some instances, closure. The result of this is the impact it has had on both the staff morale and ultimately the services. Some of the staff were helpful and friendly while others were just short of rude. The building requires major maintenance with the toilets being in a terrible state of disrepair.

One of the things I found quite interesting was that at the free museums we have visited, there are donation kettles with a suggested fee of £2. At the Mitchell, there is also a donation kettle with a suggested donation of £3. The kettles at the museums had quite a bit of money including several fivers. The kettle at the Mitchell was nearly empty with only a few pennies in it. People obviously are happy to pay for an experience that is meaningful to them and the service at the Mitchell is perhaps best reflected in the empty donation kettle.

It is unfortunate that governments don't see libraries as a viable and necessary resource. Reading is one of the basics of literacy and should be supported on that basis. Libraries can be viable if staff are not worried on a daily basis about the future of their employment. Perhaps it is time for libraries to be privatized, for real dollars to be infused to make them user friendly and sustainable. As the saying goes, "if we build it, they will come"

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