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April 29, 2008


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Dave Pattern

Be careful, or you'll end up becoming "Phil Bannedley". Sorry, that was the best pun I could come up with in 60 seconds :-)


Kara Jones

Maybe you should have played the old 'Don't you people know who I am?' card?!
'CILIP Gazette contributor, search engine guru, sought-after conference presenter, etc, etc' ;)


Personaly I think you are being unreasonable. You said youself that they do normaly have an area for you to use your laptop, but there are building works going on so it's not possible to access it at the moment. What more do you want? You expect the staff, who probably aren't told what's going on by management anyway (in my experience of libraries and local councils), to be able to tell you exactly where all other sockets in the building are and if they are currently being used. I bet you're not even a member of that library are you? Go and use your own electricity and stop sponging off the people of Sutton!

Phil Bradley

Well Joe, I accept that they may not have control over the building works. I do however think that it's reasonable to take their users into consideration, and to provide other facilities. Oddly enough they'd have been happy if I'd used their desktops in the internet area, thus leaving one machine less for people to use who didn't have access at all. Consequently they're OK with the concept of causing 2 groups of people problems.

I also don't think that it's unreasonable to expect their staff to be briefed correctly. I also don't think it's unreasonable to expect a reasonable level of civility with a modicum of helpfulness.

As for being a member of that library, I think you're having problems with the concept of a 'free' library service.


I think they did their best to help - I would have had you removed from the premises immediately!
Seriously, though - 'twould be interesting to know where Joe works!
He's obviously got the right attitude to take him far!!


Alright I'll come clean, the reason I'm annoyed is that I'm a regular user of that IT Suite myself and all day long I hear the staff trying their best to deal with thankless customers. I'm civil to them and they are perfectly civil to me, and it's astonishing how ungrateful people are for what is basically completely free internet time.

What other facilities do you suggest? Install more power points temporarily? Where? And I think suggesting you'd otherwise be using one of their desktops is missing the point, that's what you're supposed to do in the computer area - and as for upsetting 2 groups of people, you said yourself that people had been complaining about laptop users - so what are the staff supposed to do? Ignore them and please you I think is your answer.

As for they way staff dealt with you, obviously I wasn't there so I can't comment, but I sense a distinctly one sided story here - largely because the picture you paint is of a cartoon character rather than the things a real person would say.

And as for whether you're a member - I'll take that as a no. I understand the concept of a free library service perfectly - all local residents pay about the equivalent of a few quid a year to keep it running, and if one uses the building on a regular basis (especially when using the power supply) one could at least keep them open by signing up, and who knows maybe - borrowing the odd book? No, correction, one could at the very least not slag them off over the internet because one can't get one's way.

Phil Bradley

Joe - In the first instance I'd be happy to pay for any electricity that I use. In actual fact, I'm quite happy to use my own mobile connection and have done so in the past when the wi-fi connection has been down. I presume you wouldn't begrudge me the use of a chair?

This really isn't that much of an issue for me, since, as I say, I only use the library once a fortnight, but this is a busy time for students and they're really the ones who are having problems at this particular time, just before exams. The library knows how popular the area is, and also how many people use the resource. Do you think that it's acceptable for them to simply say 'we're closing this area down, go away and make your own arrangements'?

What I would expect to see would be clear signage that says laptops are not permitted. If I'd seen a sign I wouldn't have gone there in the first place. I don't think that's unreasonable, do you? I also think that it's reasonable to expect staff to be able to point me to any other areas that are available for laptop users. This is simply forward planning. There are other areas in the library with sockets - a public area by the main entrance for example. I don't think it would have been too difficult to have set up some tables and chairs there. There are also sockets in the GA area and I think it would have been possible to have done the same thing there as well, instead of leaving round tables which is not the best use of the area. Again, forward planning.

I appreciate that you go to the Internet centre to use their machines. The 'solution' proposed by the library is that I should sit and use one of them, and I don't see how that's sensible, given that I have a laptop to use, and using a desktop would mean that you might not be able to get access when *you* want to. It's simply not logical.

It's clearly a big problem, and it's not just me - all of the other laptop users are in the same situation. To simply say/imply 'make your own arrangements' is not as helpful as it might have been, surely?

No, you weren't there when I had the discussion so you really can't comment. I have no need to embellish the conversation, and while I've not repeated it verbatim the gist is as given. Of course it's a one sided account - this is my weblog. However, this is a public entry and anyone is welcome to comment, as you have.

You're quite correct, I'm not currently a member of the library, although for 15 years I have been. However, and at the risk of repeating myself, that doesn't matter, since the vast majority of laptop users *will* be members. However, you're still not, with respect, grasping the salient point - a free library service means that's free for people to use - at least those resources that have been made available to the public. You'd be welcome to use the resources in my local public library even though you don't pay taxes in my area. It's a quid pro quo system.

I have in the past praised Sutton's library service for being innovative, both in weblogs and in training courses. When they (or anyone else) does something right, good or noteworthy I'll be the first to offer praise. However, that's two sided - when someone does something that I don't think is good service I'm prepared to make my comments as well.

Finally, I'm not particularly interested in 'getting my own way'. I 'got' my own way because I found somewhere else to sit and work, and (being fair) thanks to Sutton library for that. However, that is again not the issue. The issue is withdrawal of a service to a reasonably large community of users without any apparent thought to the extent that they're going to be inconvenienced, little or no signage, poorly briefed staff and a seeming attitude of 'tough luck'. I don't think that this is helpful, hence the reason for the post.

Suzanne Kaller

Your expression "unhelpfulness" caught my attention. It's sad to here that the librarians in Sutton are so sour. Where I work as a librarian in Colorado, Arapahoe Library District by the way) we would be thrown out with behavior like that. By the way, I really enjoy reading your blog and each week, I learn about something new. For that, I say, Thanks!

Hazel Edmunds

You should be so lucky as to find a public library that allows you to plug your laptop in! Ours doesn't.
Please, don't end up in Starbucks, you'll drink far too much coffee!

Dave Pattern

Interestingly, Sutton claim to have achieved Charter Mark accreditation for their Library and Heritage Services. Their own first stated standard is:

"Make you feel welcome in your libraries and serve you with courtesy, effectiveness and efficiency."

If you don't feel that the service you received on that day met with their stated standard (which should be the norm for all users of the library), you should make a complaint to the library management.

Phil Bradley

Dave - thanks for that. I did actually complain directly to a member of staff - this took a bit of work and I had to ask twice since the person I initially spoke to kept telling me that I actually wanted to fill out a complaint form. So I think I made my position clear later on in the day. Interestingly enough Sutton seems to pride itself on Web 2.0 involvement - they have a weblog (which hasn't been updated in a while) and a Flickr group (which hasn't been updated in a while), yet they're not checked blogs on a regular basis (or they are and have decided against commenting); in either scenario it's all a bit sad really.


I'm gonna leave you in peace now, since we've both made our points, but to answer the question above: actually I work in retail so I know exactly how unreasonable customers can be sometimes!

Phil Bradley

Thanks for your comments Joe - I appreciated your points and differing view.

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