Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Central libraries: rambling thoughts

Last Thursday, I went to Tameside Central Library in Ashton-under-Lyne. I like to have a nose around libraries I've never been to before, which I can probably shoehorn into the "understanding of the wider professional context" criterion for Chartership.

Tameside is one of the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester. It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that Greater Manchester is not uniformly urban, like Manchester (or to a lesser extent Bolton). Wigan is a borough with an identity crisis: its two centres are Wigan and Leigh, and while both have more-or-less equal sized libraries, Leigh's is probably bigger. Yet neither of the two is the borough's Central Library.

The library in Ashton is apparently only marginally bigger than some of the others in Tameside, yet it does have that all-important Central Library label. It's a stunning red-brick building, adapted thoughtfully and (imho) successfully to provide the full range of modern public library services. Each service area - AV, reference, PN, large print etc. - is in its own discreet area. They even have a widescreen plasma showing BBC News 24 (sound muted, subtitles on) in the reference library. Cool.

It makes me think about the role of a central library, and what a library needs to be in order to be truly Central. And whether it matters or not. I need to give it some more thought in a way that demonstrates "an ability to reflect critically on personal performance and to evaluate service performance"...