I got lost getting to work yesterday. It was my first ever shift at this particular branch and even though I gave myself an hour to get there, I found myself dismally lost, rushing through the shopping mall where the library is located. I walked into 4 shops to asked staff for directions and they all were surprised and had no idea that there was a library in the mall. I asked 2 separate people sitting reading (my thought being that “hey -they read. They’ll know where the library is”) and they too were surprised and did not know of the library’s existence. At this point I was not only stressed but I was also despairing of the kind of people that go to a jam packed mall (it had airconditioning on a 38C/100.5F day). I called my colleagues who were very understanding and suggested I asked for directions to McDonalds which is right next to the library. I turned to the person walking past me, asked for where the Maccas was, and of course, they knew. Not even a few minutes later I was at work. Flustered due to the heat and my run around but also saddened by the lack of people who were even aware of the library’s existence.
I can’t really blame the people walking in the mall. For such an important institution (well, important to some of the population), libraries rarely have advertising budgets for their whole services. Most libraries do a fair job in promoting events and in marketing aspects of their services but as a whole, libraries don’t have some big blockbuster ad campaign on buses, in the media etc. How can they, if you look towards the dystopian future of libraries in England where 441 libraries have been closed in the last 5 years with another 149 earmarked for closure, I think librarians everywhere are squeamish in looking over their shoulder and spending money on services and collections that their patrons need rather than on some expensive ad campaign.
Once I found the library, my lovely colleagues told me that EVERYONE’s first shift at that branch results in a stressed out Lost episode. And then, I got to do my favourite thing – a first shift at a library explore! I have worked at this particular library network for over two years and in this time I have browsed the catalogue many times, reserving and transferring materials from this new (to me) branch many times. But, as many digital information designers will let you know, there is a keen difference in the way that we search for books on the shelves and books in a physical library.