My local library is not even fifteen minutes away yet I hadn’t been for near enough ten years. I remember being enthralled by the maze of shelves that seemed to go on forever. Sitting in the children’s corner whilst my mum looked around the rest of the library, I would always be scared to go and find her as the rest of the library seemed so vast in comparison to the relative safety of the beanbags and bright colours of the children’s corner. Yarm Library had always been a source of great confusion for me as the whole library seemed to sprout from a central spiral staircase (thinking about it now… it was just a large staircase- no spiral) with the main reception desk at the bottom.
I only went up the mysterious staircase once when I was younger, I was desperate for the toilet so they let me use the staff one. Truly a thrilling story. But, I distinctly remember the upstairs being even more old-fashioned than the downstairs and that’s saying something. The building had been renovated towards the end of the twentieth-century so it had your classic green tiled carpet, off-cream coloured walls, dark wooden benches and countless fluorescent tubes in the ceiling rather than your average bulb.
Returning to the library after another refurbishment in 2017 I was in for a shock. “Yarm Library in association with Darlington Building Society” the sign read above the door. Clearly this meant they’d been granted some money to modernise, which was well-needed. From the outside you could tell the charm of the library had gone, the dark wooden window frames had been replaced with bright white plastic panelling – clearly needed for insulation and security, but aesthetically unnecessary.
The character assassination continued onthe inside; gone were the green tiles and fluorescent tubes, instead was a blue carpet and the brightest lights I’ve ever seen outside of a football stadium lighting the room. The slaughter didn’t stop there, where the reception desk had been at the bottom of the stairs was now a bright white box with lime green decal loomed over the room. This piece of absurdist art was in fact the new way to return books, by entering your surname and date of birth on the screen the machine would allow you to place all of your books on it’s shelf at once and through the means of “technology” it can identify all of the books together – even if the barcode and cover of the book were covered or hidden.
All together, I don’t think this twenty-first century library really felt necessary anymore. From what I gathered of the people there, it was either older generations visiting the library they’ve visited for years on end or it was younger people using the computers for the sake of the printing facility. I’ll stick to buying my books.