Friday, September 19, 2008


Times, UK - Public libraries are dropping their hallowed rule of silence and other rigid protocols in order to revive their falling membership. Patrons will be allowed to talk on mobile phones, bring food and drink, play on computer games and watch football matches. Libraries have been increasingly shunned in recent years as the public turn to the internet and other forms of entertainment. The number of books borrowed in the past ten years has fallen by 34 per cent, with 40 libraries closing across Britain last year. . .

In Hillingdon, West London, book borrowing rose 32 per cent when the council introduced a Starbucks café into one of its main libraries. Outlets of the coffee chain will start in all 17 of its libraries over the next year.

Henry Higgins, a Hillingdon councillor, said that patrons were also attracted by greater book diversity and Nintendo Wii video games that can be played on site. Mr Higgins said: "We looked at it and thought, why would anyone want to borrow a book from somewhere that looks dusty and antiquated? So we changed things."

The Times tested the new approach yesterday at a library in Whitechapel, East London, which has been renamed an Ideas Store and diversified to attract a different clientele. The noise inside was almost as loud as the din on the street outside, with a series of public information stands set up in the foyer. Health professionals were taking blood for diabetes tests and recruitment officials chatted to people.

No one batted an eyelid when The Times conducted a 15-minute interview in the middle of the library, and staff appeared unperturbed when our BlackBerry rang out at full volume. . .


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