In May 2015, Library Stories held a reminiscence event at Sheffield Central Library as part of its Multi-Story Festival. Below is a snippet of a conversation between three library users and one library worker on the day.
Dan (library worker): I grew up in Nottinghamshire. I never used the libraries. I first went to the library when I was 21. I used the university library, returned home after university and was looking for work. We didn’t have a computer at home so I went to the library. That’s how I got my first library job. To be honest I didn’t know a great deal about libraries, but it’s worked out quite well.
A: Well if you’re someone who didn’t use libraries then presumably its put you in a good position to reach people who weren’t using them.
Dan: It’d be nice to think so. I think I was instantly passionate about them when I realised that there’s actually so much work goes on in them. It was a tremendous eye opener.
B: You’re exactly like me. I didn’t even bother going to the library at all. I kept walking past, meaning to go in there, but it was so daunting. One day I plucked up the courage to go inside, just out the blue. Since then I’ve ordered loads of books, read them, fell in love with it to be honest.
Dan: There’s something about crossing the threshold isn’t there, with a building like this.
B: I was very scared at first… I use my local one which is Upperthorpe, and I prefer that. It’s very friendly. In here there’s so many little rooms, I get lost. It’s like a maze.
Dan: One of the reasons we put so many different events on in here is to bring people through the door, show them what the library can be used for.
A: The nice thing about a local library is that you can walk there. I have to catch the bus here, but it’s a barrier isn’t it… The whole culture that these buildings were built in has changed. I don’t think anyone at Sheffield Council’s going to pin their future career on making these buildings wonderful again, so where’s the impetus going to come from?
Dan: But it would be a statement wouldn’t it, about the aspirations of the city.
A: Yes, because they spent a lot of money on the theatre didn’t they. I came to Sheffield in 1990, and the theatre has changed enormously. It’s brilliant.
C: In a way these pressures on community services are driving people into their homes again. We will all be sitting there with our little electronic devices not seeing anybody.
A: Talking all the time but never face to face.
B: I’m constantly on my iPad. I’m on Facebook, I’m playing games, I go on FaceTime to see my kids. I’m constantly using it for so many different reasons. And I think actually tablets will overtake the library.