There is no green button

I like libraries.

My post today comes from Hornsey Library in Haringey. I am typing to the sound of a group of toddlers shouting, “Abracadabra!” at the top of their voices led by a microphone-wielding entertainer who is well versed in ‘Wind the Bobbin Up.’ Only moments before the session started, I overheard one of the parents hushing their child with a whispered, urgent reprimand of “You are in a library!” Now, said child is perhaps the loudest among the group.

Traditionally of course, libraries are quiet places of contemplation and learning. I have often found them to be a sort of refuge; the shelves upon shelves of books, a blanket against the world. Library visits were a regular occurrence for my sister and I in the school holidays at the library in Bletchley, next door to where my parents worked. I remember vividly standing nose-high at the desk, watching mine and my sister’s books being checked in and out at the deft hands of the librarian and the curious clicking sound of the machine she used.

When I was last in Bromley library, I was forced to return my books through a sort of mechanised post box with a screen telling me what to do. After a few moments, there was a problem with a book going through and while I was staring helplessly at the screen which seemed as confused as I was, an actual human person, friendly and helpful, came to my aid. “You’re all done now,” she said and while I thanked her, I told her I would have preferred to have been able to return my books back to a librarian rather than through a conveyor belt. She sighed and said she would prefer that too. “Are you sure that I’m finished?” I asked as the screen was instructing me to ‘Press a green button to finish’ rather insistently. The librarian looked at me a little sadly. “There is no green button,” she said.

The toddlers are singing ‘The Hokey Cokey’ now. Let’s look after our libraries and the people who make them.


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