A complete mess
SIR, — My complaint about the state of affairs at the Maltings Library (Herts Advertiser, April 24) has been attacked by John Harris of Herts County Council and reader Kirsty Leetar. Mr Harris says that I am out of touch because I do not realise that libr
SIR, - My complaint about the state of affairs at the Maltings Library (Herts Advertiser, April 24) has been attacked by John Harris of Herts County Council and reader Kirsty Leetar.
Mr Harris says that I am out of touch because I do not realise that libraries today must cater for a wide range of visitors. I am a local businessman who has brought up a family and now has five grandchildren and I don't think I'm out of touch at all. I have been using libraries all my life and, until fairly recently, I have considered them to be admirable places but in the last few years there has been a sinister change.
Why should a public library have to cater for everybody? Buildings are built to a purpose. You would not expect to visit a hospital and find 15 or 20 youngsters playing football in the corridor; it's a hospital, not a recreation ground. You wouldn't go into a police station and demand a sandwich and a cup of tea - it's a cop shop not a café. And so on. You get the idea?
So why should visitors to a library have to suffer screaming children, mobile phone conversations, not to mention loud ringing tones, noisy youngsters - sometimes very noisy indeed - and homeless people sleeping all day in the chairs? In my letter to John Harris last year, I suggested there was a health hazard with the down-and-outs sleeping for hours in the same chair but the reply by his department implied that there were no concerns about this and his letter (Herts Advertiser, May 8) ignores the matter completely. Incidentally, is there some kind of verbal contract between Open Door and Shelter to send the overflow around to the Maltings?
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The fact is, the idea to make the library one huge open-plan room was extremely naive and ill-conceived. To say it was idiotic would not be an exaggeration. As John Harris says, "managing an open-plan building where sound travels presents a challenge". You bet it does! The problem is that the sound cannot be contained so it reverberates everywhere. People who work in open-plan offices covet the private offices given to higher-ranked staff.
As with all bad ideas, nobody wants to admit that it is actually a bad idea or that they had anything to do with it. It is not fashionable these days to accept blame or to apportion it to anyone, so incompetent people stay in their jobs churning out more bad ideas until the situation becomes intolerable and they are finally sacked. In the meantime, we get waffle.
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Ms Leetar (Herts Advertiser, May 1) basically dismisses me as a grumpy old man, a real-life Victor Meldrew. Sadly, her letter has defeat and hopelessness written all over it. She suggests we ignore rowdy youngster who are behaving like oafs because if we interfere, they might take themselves off and smash up property. Better that they let off steam in the library rather than be elsewhere committing acts of vandalism. What an appalling attitude! Is she herself the mother of uncontrollable teenagers? We are living in a society that has dumbed down to suit the most unintelligent and ill-educated members of it. No wonder England is a nation of yobs. Does Ms Leetar support this lowering of standards?
The next time One Foot in the Grave has a re-run she should look more closely at the character of Victor Meldrew. He is basically an extremely nice man - decent, honest, law-abiding, faithful, clean, etc etc. We laugh at him not because he is a bad person - he isn't - but because he is so damned unlucky. I wouldn't mind him living next door to me.
But to return to the problem of the Maltings Library, I claimed in my letter that the place is a shambles and I stand by my criticism. In trying to be all things to all people - which everyone knows just isn't possible - it has ended up as a mess. It is now part library, part dormitory for dossers, part children's playground and part meeting place for teenagers. A mess.
Kingfisher Close, Wheathampsted.