Sutton leading the way on unhelpfulness? 1

Phil Bradley explains that he’s doing his work at a public library in the UK for a while. Currently, the library is renovating the space where he used to sit, so he’s sitting in a different place for the day: (emphasis mine)

About 13.00 a librarian comes up to me and says ‘You have to move. You’re not allowed to use your own laptop here.‘ I asked why and she said that it’s because they don’t have the room, and people were complaining about lack of space. Which would be fair enough except that there has clearly been enough space when I’ve been there before, and for the whole of the morning. It would also have been nice if there was actually a sign to that effect, but no.

Fair enough – if those are the rules, then I’ll move. So I asked the librarian if there was somewhere else I could go. She waved in the direction of downstairs. ‘Are there any sockets there that I could use?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know. You’ll have to look. I expect so.’ She almost literally stood over me while I packed up and moved. Downstairs I go, look around, no sockets. Another librarian. ‘Anywhere I can…etc’ ‘No, nothing here. Try down on the ground floor. There may be one there.’ I’m sensing a theme here – perhaps they’re trying to win an award for ‘Most unhelpful librarian of the year’?

I found the area – no luck, all the seats were taken, which wasn’t a surprise. Eventually I’ve managed to get a space in some public area and back online.

Now if I was in the wrong – fair enough. But not only have I done this plenty of times before, I’d been in the same place all morning, but the impression was given to me that I was being a nuisance and causing other people problems. No signs up to say that I couldn’t be there though, so that doesn’t really work for me. No need for rude and unhelpful behavior either. I understand that if they’re working on an area it’s going to make life difficult, but I think it’s reasonable to work out what the ramifications are of doing work and to try and get around them. Simply saying ‘go away’ doesn’t really cut it in my book. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a negative experience in a library, so I guess that it was bound to happen at some point. Can’t say that I feel very welcome at Sutton any longer though. Maybe I’ll try and find a Starbucks instead.

One thought on “Sutton leading the way on unhelpfulness?

  • JJR

    Sorry to hear about your negative experience. We have free WiFi in our Library and people are welcome to bring their own laptops, and do, or they can check out laptops on 3 hour reserve from circulation.

    As a counter narrative, I went into our local Panera Bread, which offers free WiFi, so yay, but they have a dearth of plug in sockets, so BOOO. I logged on and started to update my iTunes while I ate, as much as I could, while my battery held out, but eventually I had to leave, because all the primo seats with plug ins near them were taken by others…what’s the point of offering free WiFi if you don’t adequately support users with places to keep their portable laptops plugged in and fully charged?

    I wouldn’t go to Starbucks–they have a pay-as-you-go system. I refuse any pay-to-play internet schemes from businesses unless I’m absolutely desperate. The way I see it, your offer of free WiFi is the incentive for me to darken your front door with my shadow. Giving me good, comfortable places to plug in and surf will make me inclined to stay and spend way more money in your place on food & drink than I probably would otherwise. Charging customers for internet access in a pay-to-play fashion is really shooting yourself in the foot financially, I think. I’m always like “so I guess you don’t really want my business then”.

    Luckily in my town we have some really awesome, independently owned coffee bars that have free WiFi that is well supported. If my library’s closed, this is where I go when I’m out and about. I have headphones, so I don’t make distracting noises (other than to laugh at stuff on YouTube or whatever I’m reading at the moment that is humorous).

    On the other hand, I attended an academic awards dinner just last week and sitting next to me was one of the student honorees, a graduating senior. Clearly intelligent, near the top of her class…and what was she doing at dinner? Why, holding a fork in one hand and texting like mad with her cellphone in the other, her attention riveted on her device rather than her fellow dinner guests around her or her food. It made me feel old, because I could not get over feeling how unspeakably rude I thought her behavior was, and how she was utterly oblivious to that. Definitely a “why these kids today!” moment, and I’m only 37…

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