Public Comment

What Has Become of the Berkeley Public Library?

By Sheila Goldmacher
Friday March 14, 2014 - 12:01:00 PM

Have any of you noticed recently that when you enter the lobby of the Main Library in downtown Berkeley , it feels more like a ghost town? No more feeling of commons, hardly anybody talking to one another, when you approach the circulation area, the workers are now in front of their desks instead of behind them as if to keep us from expecting any service? That is not your imagination. One day a week ago I approached the desk and one of the workers came forward, spoke politely of course and asked how he could help me. I asked for a reserved book which had been ordered for me from another library system. He got it for me and checked it out behind his desk and when I tried to give him my other materials from our library to check out he told me they were no longer permitted to check out materials owned by Berkeley, behind the desk. I was flabbergasted. So he walked me to the self check out computers several feet away and I told him I already knew how to do this but how ridiculous it seemed to me to not do all of the checkouts where he started the first transaction. Again he told me they were no longer permitted to do that. As a retired librarian this trend of increasing self service is abhorrent to me. Library service work was meant to be just that - a place of service to the community. 

Now do you smell a rat????? To me this seems to come from the idea that the library is no longer to be a place of community good or community service but rather a tomb-like building the costs of which we in Berkeley have continuously come across with millions of dollars to improve but - not for improvement of human contact. I see this as a way to diminish what little staff is still available. 

I have always looked forward to my trips to the library to exchange greetings with staff, to feel good in the commons that I willingly support with my taxes. It appears that the commons has become an endangered concept - what is next? In this age of technology we cannot afford to lose another source of human contact. Or is this just another step in the progression of turning away from one another to bury ourselves in more and more technology. Let's put a stop to this ongoing destruction of our society while we still can.