Letter: Late nights at the library

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The Independent Online
Sir: The decline in the use of public libraries is not just due to them purchasing too few books ("Use of libraries declines as cuts limit new books", 30 June). Library hours in our own London borough, Camden, have been severely cut over the years. Even worse, opening times are out of touch with current working hours and the spread of commuting: my own branch, the borough's flagship, normally closes at six, with one "late night" opening - to 7pm.

Having "grown up" in my local library, I particularly regret that my schoolboy son cannot go there after tea, as I used to, given how long it now takes even children to get home. On Saturdays, meanwhile, the desperate scramble of teenagers with project work besieging an under-staffed inquiry desk can put off library users of other ages.

Better funding alone might not help here. Many councils are keener on buying computer gadgetry for their libraries than on improving access for working residents. This is not to say they are unaware of the problem: when I phoned Camden's deputy director a few weeks ago, she confirmed that a survey of library users had shown great demand for longer opening hours. Reassured, I asked how the council would respond to these findings.

The answer was that Camden would conduct another survey on the subject at some point in the future. Internet facilities, on the other hand, are to be introduced very soon ...


London NW6