UK library crisis driving some libraries to drink
September 23, 2013 | 3:48 pm
The continuing decimation of UK library services under the pressure of government-dictated funding cuts has led to some novel – some would say, outre and outlandish – suggestions and solutions for how to sustain, or repurpose, existing library facilities. And the latest twist in the sorry saga of the cull of Sheffield libraries is that some local library branches are under consideration by a restaurant and hospitality group, for possible conversion into wine bars-cum-libraries.
As reported in the Sheffield Telegraph, local bar and restaurant operator Forum Cafe Bars is contemplating conversion of up t0 four library branches into wine bar/restaurants, with space provided in situ for library facilities. Exactly how this would work is not yet clear. Nor is it clear how much value Sheffield City Council or the local community could extract from the proposition, since three out of the four library branches are scheduled to remain open no matter what the outcome of the current services review. And there is no clue how local libraries’ obligations to provide full services for children could be reconciled with serving alcoholic beverages on-site.
All the same, the idea has a sneaking appeal, as should be obvious from the pictures from Denmark’s Library Bar at the Copenhagen Plaza Hotel (above) and the Lanesborough Hotel London’s Library Bar (below). Since much modern library services doctrine revolves around integration with the community, and a more relaxed environment that dovetails with local needs and habits, such convivial environments would surely be a draw for certain sectors of the reading public – so long as the bar prices were reasonable.
More seriously, though, the wine bar/library proposal is just one of a number on the table in Sheffield. And however enticing the design aspects could be, Sheffield citizens are probably better off hoping for a more sensible outcome.