Did you know that WHSmith sells chocolate bars and bottles of pop? You did?
Well, I didn’t, until I came across them by accident. Which is why I spent most of last Friday standing around in the foyer of Marylebone Library.
Let me explain. I was pretty sure that some (possibly many) people use one bit of the library without realising about all the other bits. How right I was. I was particularly concerned with the “invisible” part of the library service, the 24/7 Library – the rather impressive range of things you can do with your library card when you’re not actually in the building.
So I joined colleagues to chat to about 350 of the people coming through the library entrance, handing many of them a flyer summarising the goodies available in the 24/7 Library. We reminded some people about what was on offer. We introduced some to a world of which they knew nothing. And we tried to match up their interests with particular aspects of the 24/7 Library.
There was one group of people we were especially interested in contacting – those who joined the library years ago and had no interest in computers and online stuff at the time (perhaps they joined long enough ago that the online world didn’t even exist!), but took to using computers later on. We know there are lots of them – after all, we’ve trained several hundred people ourselves in the library! I hope, though, that you can’t sit through one of our own training sessions without getting a pretty fair idea about online services. But if you learned to use a computer elsewhere, you might well carry on borrowing books and CDs from the library, and not notice that you can use your new-found skill to read newspapers online, or to download e-audiobooks.
If you visited Marylebone Library on the grandly-named 24/7 Library Gala Day, you would have faced a picket line of smiling library types, 24/7 Library bunting festooned across the stairs, and a colourful slideshow projected on to the wall.
And the reaction? A high proportion of people were pleased to be told about all these free services. Some were amazed. And the people who knew all about it could smile indulgently at our antics and congratulate themselves on being on the inside track. I had a ball.