I’m writing this blog post in response to a challenge from Voices for the Library to try to envisage what the public library of the 21st century should be like. This is quite a hard thing to do - because, in order to get your thoughts on this subject straight, the first task is to free them…
Today was National Libraries Day, a day of events celebrating public libraries, encouraging people to use them, and campaigning for their continued and growing importance (and therefore the continued and growing need for a properly funded, professionally run service).
To my shame I didn’t organise any events, nor attend any officially organised events. However, I did go to my local library, and I did try something new there, and now I’m going to evangelise about that.
Since it reopened after extensive refurbishment a couple of years ago, Cambridge Central Library has hosted one of a number of BFI Mediatheques. A ‘BFI Mediatheque’ is a collection of booths (on the third floor at Cam Central), each furnished with a comfy seat, a large flat screen, headphone sockets, and roughly a squillionty films and TV programmes. It’s free to use, and you just walk up and get a ticket for a booth for 2 hours without pre-booking.
The content is divided up into a large number of thematic collections, giving you an easy way into finding something to watch. Or rather, helping you to narrow down your choice! You can also search all the content in various ways, although I didn’t try that out.
As LGBT History Month has just started, I plumped for exploring the collection Beautiful Things: Queer Lives in Britain, which turned out to have stacks and stacks of films and programmes. I watched the TV adaptation of Quentin Crisp’s The Naked Civil Servant, and a really interesting interview with Quentin Crisp (thanks to the ‘you may also like…’ feature).
I’m definitely going to be going back - there’s so much there to explore, it’s free, and the setting was very comfortable.
So - if you’re in or near Cambridge (or one of the other Mediatheque locations), go and try it out. If you’re elsewhere, go and see what your library holds!