Friday 13 May 2011

A library of society

The library

Getting a place to sit in the magnificent Amsterdam Public Library [1] is not an easy task especially when you arrive in the early afternoon.

The library offers free wireless internet access after registration; there are banks of computers on most floors with Apple iMacs and Windows PCs, a restaurant on the ground floor and the one the 7th is a buffet restaurant of ingredients that get cooked for you after selection.

It is serious as it is social with seven floors, there is no doubt that the examinations season is round the corner, I have seen similar copies of high school examination preparation materials on desks as students swot and sometimes cram to get the best scores.

The people

Literally everyone one of them has a laptop, most of them are Apple iBooks but you can see other popular brands too. One even had an iPad and as he typed away at the screen, I thought about the luxury of fads without the feedback of clicking keys.

Everyone seemed to have one musical device of the other and the headphones were probably best suited for a recording studio, I doubt any were listening to anything classical.

Their scientific calculators are huge; it makes you wonder what new calculations have entered the curriculum since I left high school 3 decades ago.

The culture

They quite conveniently ignore library decorum especially when groups of friends band together in discussion that rarely pertains to the purpose for which they have come to the library.

Indeed social development is just as important as educational prowess, many people form their life-long networks from their teens and that matters a lot amongst the Dutch.

I have many a time lamented the fact that the Dutch with all their tolerance rarely have a social circle that extends beyond that which they formed since year dot. The ones that do in most cases have really broken free from the structure and plunge themselves into other settings by reason of having travelled and lived in other countries or also acquired for themselves foreign partners.

The annoyance

Yesterday evening there was a rather raucous group at my reading table who at one time reckoned they were being a nuisance when I looked up. However, some 20 minutes after, a particular lady who just could not keep it low got to me.

I banged my fists of the table in exasperation, reminded them they were in a library, conceded they needed to have discussions but admonished them to be considerate.

Now, I was not against their communicating but it fell completely silent and they appeared to self-censure each other when the decibel level rose and eventually they left.

The inconsiderate

Whilst I was minded to get the staff to deal with them, I felt it was important to gauge their reaction to my protest before seeking additional help.

Again, in settings like this, one is not sure if they will take kindly to being told off, some people just cannot bear to be told to exercise a modicum of civility.

In the end, not an apology was offered, not that it mattered, and the expectation of good manners will always leave me utterly disappointed.


[1] Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam

Amsterdam Public Library – Facts and Figures

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