That lost personal touch..

This morning, at the library, it dawned on me, how little person to person contact we have these days. I go in, take the books I want to return to the machine, return them, browse through the shelves, select books, and then self check them out.

Libraries have always been in my top of my list of Β ‘happy places’. Ever since I remember. I actually remember how the first library I visited looked like. It was the library of my school’s primary section. I remember how I used to wait for the library classes – we had a period reserved for the library. We were not allowed to take home books until we were in Class 3, and I remember waiting impatiently to reach Class 3.

Our high school library was just as good. And our librarian was a darling! She was a wonderful, sweet tempered lady, with whom I used to discuss books. I remember waiting for Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind. When the book got released, I was in Class 10. Our school term was almost over. We had study holidays to prepare for Pre-ICSE, and we were not allowed to borrow books(time-pass books, that is). But I managed to convince my librarian to let me borrow it πŸ™‚

I have had a wonderful time talking to librarians, discussing books, getting recommendations. I would have never read authors like Elizabeth George, Sophie Kinsella had it not been recommended by the librarians of the libraries I have frequented over the years. One of the librarians I met was a software engineer who quit her job to open her own library. How I wanted to be her at that time πŸ™‚

In London, I used to go to the library almost every day. It used to open late, and I would often finish a book in the time it took me to get to work and back. So on the way back home, I would either drop off my book, or pick up new ones. After daughter was born, and after I took time off from work, we used to visit it even more. I think she must have been just as comfortable in libraries as she was at home. And what made my library visits so memorable was certainly the interaction with the librarians or library assistants.

That was before the age of self checkout machines. In London, our library had just started introducing them, and they refused to work most of the time, so I always ended up at the counter to borrow books. When we moved to Leeds, everything changed. The self checkout system here worked much better. I hardly had any contact with the library staff. They were almost always busy serving older customers who found it difficult to use the machines. And that is when I realized that although I have been frequenting my current library for over 3 years, but I don’t seem to know any of the staff! I know the checkout staff at my local supermarket better than that! And they have a much larger staff!

And that is only thanks to those soulless machines which I interact with these days.. The mere thought of all this, makes me yearn for the days gone by when the librarian would checkout each book, stamp it out, and talk to you about whether they read that book or not. Sometimes exclaiming that they had no idea that this library stocked this book, sometimes Β asking me how I managed to read so much, while I tell them how I used to dream of being a librarian as a young child.. It makes me feel a little sad.. Β a little nostalgic for the days gone by, a little sad for that lost personal touch..

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33 thoughts on “That lost personal touch..

  1. As Celestial Rays has said above, Matilda, is who you remind me of, with your love of books, the way you interact with not just the books but those who serve it as well.
    The personal touch is still here, but not the kind of librarians you have had the good fortune to meet. πŸ™‚ Lucky you! And more so, lucky Poohi, to have this sort of love surrounding her πŸ™‚

    • Oh thank you! *blushing*

      I think I have certainly met some wonderful librarians and had some wonderful teachers too, because of whom, I read so much. And not just English teachers either – my Maths and Physics teacher in school used to read a lot too. I remember that he had recommended Alex Haley’s Roots – and I remember reading it and learning so much about a world, very different from my own..

  2. You would be surprised to know that I subscribe to an online library here in Mumbai and they deliver and take back books from your house/office….Surprising I have never thought about this personal interaction with librarians! I think its more because I have never used an actual library except in school where the teacher was pretty sad 😦

    • But that is brilliant in it’s own way! I think I have been lucky with libraries – I always ended up finding good ones.. I think the library is one thing I might miss in India -but if we have good online ones – maybe not πŸ™‚

  3. I love the musty smell of interiors of old libraries. I used to be a frequent visitor to the Public library here. But now I go to the more modern lending library closer. It is a small place, doesn’t actually have the look of real libraries. But they have most books. The people there are all familiar to me now πŸ™‚
    I just loved this write up of yours! πŸ™‚

    • ‘I love the musty smell of interiors of old libraries’ – Oh there is something about that, isn’t there?

      The library here was like that when we first came here.Then they did a total revamp and it is all modern and shining now 😦 You know, in London, the library I used was very modern looking, but I used to see libraries in old period buildings when we were out, and I used to want to go in and just soak in the atmosphere. I never did though- I wonder why.. Also knowing the way the places here work, it might just be the exterior which looks old and weathered – the library inside might be all modern and sparkling 😦

      Getting all the books we need, is the most important bit, isn’t it?My parents were pleasantly surprised to find Malayalam books in London – they never got Malayalam books in Jamshedpur, which would have definitely a larger Mallu population than that part of London πŸ™‚

      Thank you, Shail πŸ™‚

  4. I’ve never had the kind of (nice) personal interaction with librarians that you have had. In fact all the librarians I remember were grumpy and irritable 😦 In the US, I loved going to the library but always managed to do the electronic checkout and returns. And now in Gurgaon, I get the library to home-deliver πŸ™‚

  5. Not just the library, we are losing personal touch in a lot of other areas too! 😐 The more things work with the help of machines…or even online purchases…the less we need other humans.

    How many of us can claim to know our neighbours really well?

  6. you had Icse too.. ME too πŸ™‚

    Same pinch πŸ™‚

    You know our school was a palace cum stadium given by the king to make into a school, the Middle Big Ball room was the library.. huge chandeliars and so many books it had , huge tables for us to sit and read .. Good old days

    Wow!!! That must have been so grand!

    Personal touch well as Ashwathy said above we are losing it in lot of phases of our life’s, how many times od we actually get up and go to see a friend as we used to , now we ring first to ask can we come, etc etc Lot of places maybe thats why the society is going where it is …

    True.. I guess having a telephone helps – right? Earlier, when we were little, I remember dropping in at our friends place, only to realize that they were not at home – and what a disappointment it was 😦 Sometimes, they would have come to our place, while we went to theirs – missing each other totally.. So technology is not all bad, for sure.. Just as personal touches can be good or bad, there are good and bad aspects to the technology that is now our lives..When I have the time to stand around and chat with someone, I might not mind getting delayed. But when I am in a hurry, it is a boon to just take the books and check them out in minutes -or getting them home delivered, you know..

    sorry going on a tangent here but in icse in 10th the syllabus had a book called panorama for english , Is there any chance you have it still with you πŸ™‚

    I do remember it! But I don’t have it with me.. Did you have ‘The Treasury of Short Stories’?

  7. Ah! u reminded me of good old days. Last time I went to a library was when I was in college. My grad college had this biiiiig library and I used to go there to sleep πŸ˜€ I used to love the musty smell of books.
    And yes human touch is losing out to machines but what to do, technology madam!!!

  8. I have never been to libraries except for school days and that too coz it was compulsory to spend one hour in the library once in a week… I have always ordered for book from the online library of our office… The books get delivered on our desk, and once over we just have to drop it in a drop box…

  9. I know! I have been thinking of this too – I am a member of Just Books here, and they use machines to check out books and return them. I miss the interaction with the librarians that I used to have back home. 😦

    I think we will always miss that πŸ™‚

    That said, the library I used to frequent back home at Ahmedabad had a few librarians I knew personally. They were, sadly, more of admin staff who were not very knowledgeable about English books, but I used to have lovely, long, personal conversations with them. They still recognise me when I pass by the library. And that is so, so awesome. πŸ™‚

    I can so so imagine! It does feel good to be recognized no?

  10. ahh yes librarians are so important! our neighborhood library’s librarian always used to keep the children mags and comics hidden for me to read first! πŸ˜€

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