Forum: Do more to educate users on correct behaviour in public libraries

In a photo from March 14, 2020, chairs are placed further apart to encourage people not to sit close together at the National Library.
In a photo from March 14, 2020, chairs are placed further apart to encourage people not to sit close together at the National Library.ST PHOTO: JOEL CHANG

I am a frequent user of a few public libraries here. Overall, I have had pleasant experiences because most library users are considerate and maintain a quiet atmosphere conducive to reading and learning (Everyone has a part in making libraries conducive and welcoming, March 16).

But there have been instances of noise from outside (as with Serangoon Public Library on weekday afternoons) or even from within (the ground floor of Bishan Public Library on a recent weekday afternoon).

In the latter case, it was due to the programme zone of the library being used for interviews.

As many library users would know, programme zones are enclosed areas used for reading or studying and can hold a significant number of people at any one time.

Setting aside programme zones for other uses besides reading or studying deprives users of valuable needed tables and chairs.

Moreover, staff stationed on the ground floor of the Bishan library were calling out and directing interviewees on where to go for the interviews.

Can interviews not be held in other public places, such as community centres?

Separately, as a result of demand for seats in libraries, users tend to "reserve" tables with their belongings.

It is understandable if a user needs to visit the restroom for a while. But I have seen belongings left on a seat or table for an extended time.

With the recent social distancing measures, public libraries have also reduced the number of chairs around tables and put up signs asking that the chairs not be moved. This has increased the competition for seats in the libraries even more.

I do not see any library personnel urging users to follow the guidelines, as users continue to move the chairs or "reserve" tables.

I recently informed a security employee at the Bishan library about an errant user who insisted on moving a chair and reserving it for an absent friend.

But the security employee gave me the impression that his hands were tied.

Even if he had done something, there is no guarantee that the errant behaviour will not resume when he is not present.

It is well and good to say everyone has a part in making libraries conducive and welcoming. But the unfortunate reality is that until we become a truly gracious society, the correct behaviour will need to be enforced.

Huang Meifang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2020, with the headline 'Do more to educate users on correct behaviour in public libraries'. Print Edition | Subscribe