The 24 Hour Library

The Library of the Month for August is a future library : Sydney is planning Australia’s first 24 hour public library.  Academic libraries have often catered for late-night, exam-crazed students; the concept of a public library being open all hours is a new one.

The lovely historic Customs House at Circular Quay is the chosen venue: it’s central, close to public transport,  and already a popular site (with exhibition spaces, bars and restaurants.) The over-arching plan is to make the city centre a livelier and more appealing place after hours, with late-night ‘cultural and retail opportunities’. It’s all about the money: at the moment Kings Cross draws almost all of the night-time crowd.  The council wants the  city centre to enjoy the ‘economic benefits’ of increased late-night trading; according to one survey, the Cross at midnight has more people in it than Pitt Street at morning peak hour. (It’s not clear to me how this demographic is going to translate into department store shopping and library use, though…)

My memory of the Customs House Library is that it’s a lovely, spacious and comfortable place; if you wanted to use a computer, read an international newspaper or enjoy a cappuccino and a good book at midnight, it would be a good place to go. (Whether that still applies at 3 am remains to be seen. )  They have an interesting programme of workshops and events; Social Media for Historians, the Future of Reading and Twitter for Beginners are some current examples.

So, what do you think? We have 24 hour laundromats, hospitals, pharmacies, fitness centers and Burger Kings. Public libraries have so far confined 24 hour access to electronic 24/ 7. Do we really need 24 hour (physical) libraries?


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