Friday, May 30, 2008

Margate Library revisited

Since I happened to be near Cecil Square to today, I revisited the library, just to see how things were as for those of us who take an interest in the local community, will no doubt have read this weeks yourthanet, which highlights Kent councils apparent confusion of just how well their brilliant Gateway collaboration with Thanet council is panning out.

Well for me there is no confusion its a bad idea poorly executed, just what smart alec ever thought that there was a relationship between claiming housing benefit or paying parking fines and more cerebral matters such as information, inspiration, education and distraction which is the mainstay of a libraries existence, ought to be named and shamed.

Just prior to popping in to the library or council offices, I noted soon to be retired (from local government) Rodger Latchford holding forth to a group just outside the library and tempting as it was to listen in, I resisted the urge, though since I have struggled and tried to guess at the intent of this gathering, and here is my best shot, I reckon the great man was taking time out of his day to reassure a group of former nervous library users that their was nothing to fear from the well mannered non-aggressive Thanet residents waiting for a chance to have a chit chat with someone from housing benefits.

The most striking thing as you enter the "Gateway" is that considering the purpose of the building (information) there is a lack of signage or quick way to tell who to approach. Once I had established who worked for TDC I asked how I would make a freedom of information requests, after a pause I was given the name the council Press person. This being quite apt since I'm interested in the council relationships with local media, since last year we learnt that Tory run KCC think nothing of blowing millions on advertising and I guess our local Tories squander on a pro-rata basis.

The upshot of my enquiry is that I shall have to put my request in writing, I had hoped to have some "officer" dragged away from their desk, cup of tea and hobnobs to personally transcribe my request, still it saved having the indignity of waiting an hour with a numbered ticket waiting to be called (a bit like the delicatessen counter in some supermarkets).

I cannot help thinking that for those who work in the Library part of Gateway that it must be soul destroying, I only assume that genius behind this project has never used a library and begrudges those to whom libraries are a vital community service. Still for those who always claim that Margate is looked after I understand that their will be none of this Gateway Bollix in Ramsgates rebuilt library.


  1. What was the ambient noise level like? Was it as low as it once was in the library or can you pick out distinct voices from the other side of the room? (Or worse can you hear nothing at all?)

    Inquiring minds (that have yet to summon the courage to enter the place) would love to know.

  2. I use the Library each day now and find it concerning that the queue for getting books out of the Library is immediately next to the one for Council business. The stuff they talk about is very sensitive and I felt slightly dirty, knowing that this person is announcing effectively publicly their personal problems. I know the staff feel similarly. At least I can simply walk out the building. They dont get that choice and its not fair for them.

    I notice there arent as many books in the Library, despite assurances to the contrary.

    As for ambient noises, right now its fine, but then again its morning on a Saturday and people have far better things to do. You get your normal screaming kids etc. Its not that loud normally I find but it has its moments. For me its the lack of privacy for those coming into the building to deal with personal concerns about things which shouldnt be aired in public like that. Surely something can be done to sort that out?

  3. It's a horrible,horrible idea. What a betrayal of Council Tax payers and library users. I visited on Tuesday this week and it was unbearable.It is the last time I will go in there.

  4. Glad Ramsgate won't have it. Now Margate needs to change.

  5. The day TDC just says sorry we made a mistake and puts it right is the one we are looking for. Making it difficult for people to read and humiliating people claiming benefit, why would they want to make our lives more horrible? Horrible for the council officers and librarians working there horrible for the people using it, does anyone benefit?

  6. Rubbish gallery, shame, once was brilliant! The writing was on the wall when they put in the lift for wheelchairs access, hold on, nothing wrong that, i am all for it! but some fool put it in the wrong place, ruined the layout of the building, cut out light and spoilt what was a nice open space, why didn't they put it at the side? since when did "mind body and spirt" replace physics chemistry and science? no wonder we are a laughing stock in europe. Libraries matter!

  7. The lift is rubbish anyway. When I was in there, someone got stuck in it.
    The whole thing is a disaster. Kcc are equally to blame for allowing it to happen. It makes you think they don't want people to use libraries any more so they can do away with them altogether.

  8. Michael making it difficult to read and humiliating benefit claimants seems to have been the net effect of Gateway

    Thanks for a concise point, and thanks and sympathy to those other contributors who have similar views

    Obliviously those Tories who came up with this scheme are probably not involved in either of those activities.

    Maybe Rodger Latchford OBE would like to chip in since I understand his responsibilities involve culture amongst other things.

    Still you can never find a tory or a Labourite when you want one.

  9. It was apparently the idea of senior TDC officer Paul Moores who has been universally praised by numbskull senior public sector types for the project, I hear. For 'personal reasons' he lives in Whitstable.

    The new Ramsgate library will be getting 'one desk'. Let's hope they put it somewhere sensible that doesn't cause the sorts of balls up they've caused in Margate.

  10. To be fair, it was not solely the idea of Pauk Moore, although he was the TDC lead on this. There are any number of examples elsewhere in the country where not disimilar arrangements do work. I canb tell you thatnot as a Councillor alone, but as a retained consultant to the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professional (formerly the Library Association) for some years.

    All Library services are tasked, like everybody else these days, with attracting hard to reach groups into their services, and this is one way of doing that. In the early days of the Gateway I personally saw people accompanying those attending for the Housing Benefit style of query using the library services, something clearly many would not have done before.

    Libraries are changing, just like other parts of society. Theyare no longer the silent, morgue like atmospheres of our youth, gentlemen, the introduction of computers has changed that prior to anything else, Broadstairs library being an excellent example. where old and young users generally rub along together quite well.

    Factually, library users are up; lending up, all against national trends for most libraries. I, we, all accept there will be practical problems to overcome, but going back to how it was is not likely to be one of them. When change is introduced, existing users always grumble about what has happened. Give it a year to settle and see - it may not be the end of the world as we know it. It may extend a love of learning to new people, and if so, that is no bad thing either.

  11. Change is good chris when it is for the better and like a lot of the other posts it is horrible.numbers are not up(look at your thanet newspaer)and the books are dwindling fast,go in there on a monday morning(or whenever)and if you are a Library user you are hard pushed to get in the door to use the building as prams and youths hanging around outside swearing and spitting block your way..from my experience the library is empty and TDC heaving.
    Give it a year and what?Hope people forget they once had a great Library with good resources...

  12. Well said.
    The long standing regulars I know are using other libraries rather than go in there. Attracting new people is fine. The problem is the noise and behaviour of some of the people who are now spending a long time waiting to be served by TDC.
    The place doesn't have to be silent. It wasn't before the refurb and hadn't been for a long time, although I would prefer it if it were myself. But the alternative to silence shouldn't be screaming kids, swearing, shouting, drinking and abuse of staff, all of which goes on.

  13. Chris I am convinced that the lending statistics are fudged, as are those for the tourist information offices. Could you please send me the library book loan figures and the tourist information figures for the last 3 years?

    I think what they have done is compared the lending figures for the period last year when the library was in temporary accommodation, but the tourist figures are beyond belief, suggesting one through the door enquiry a minute in the summer season, that would be like the number of purchasers in a large supermarket.

    Frankly if the council are basing their decisions on statistical information that is wrong something must be done about it, otherwise a great deal of public money will be wasted.

  14. The visitor numbers to the exhibition in the old M&S building also seem dubious, as it is always empty when I walk regularly walk past. The numbers maybe boosted by school visits, where the children had no choice but to visit. Council decisions do not seem to refect relality and maybe are based on unreliable statistics. It would be better if our decision makers took thier heads out of the sand and walked around our towns and spent time to see what is actually going on, from empty shops, empty art exhibitions etc, empty carparks at the weekends, etc

  15. Not only was the library in temporary accomodation last year, it was also closed completely for 2 weeks. This must affect the comparison surely.

  16. How wholeheartedly I agree with the expressed sentiments. The idea was one of Paul Moores and the Head Officer of Communications (that is a laugh in itself) after spending hundreds of thousands in re-planning the call centre operations, it now takes 10 times as long to get through to the council as it did 5 years ago, that is what the taxpayer is paying for, total bloody incompetence. The new management under the Chief Executive ( a failure from another council) are hell bent on getting fat salaries and expenses and sod the people of Thanet. All the senior management are rejects from other councils where most lost their jobs due to an inability to grasp local needs now they inflict their silly ideas down here. Incidentally the Councillors for the most part are really innocent they just go along with their advisors as the knowledge that they have is limited to their own fields, the blame lies squarely on the very senior management. Thanks for reading. I shall return.

  17. It is time a public protest was organised. This council is destroying what is left of our towns. I am a tory supporter, but have lost faith in this council. They seem to be good at cleaning our streets and a few other areas, but overall seem totally unable to deliver on many other fronts.