There seems to be no end to pointless ways that people use to supposedly promote libraries. The latest comes from Poland of all places, according to this article.
The headline asks “would more people use the library if it had a water slide?” We can turn to Betteridge’s law of headlines and safely answer no.
In the opening paragraphs, we move from an alleged crisis to a really bad solution:
In 2010, Poland’s National Library performed a survey to determine the reading habits of the Polish citizenry. The results were not buoying: 56 percent of Poles had not read a book in the past year, either in hard or electronic form. Just as bad was that 46 percent had not attempted to digest anything longer than three pages in the previous month – and this included students and university graduates.
Why not put these numbers the other way? Almost half the country read a book last year! Over half the country read more than three pages last month! It sounds pretty stupid trumpeting those facts, but the opposite perspective is hardly a tragedy. Most people aren’t big readers. So much the worse for them.
But who’s to blame here: The willfully non-literate masses for not trekking to the public library? Or is it the library’s fault for not attracting these individuals, what with its classically stodgy, hermetic-cage-for-learning design?
Here’s crisis-manufacturing at work. We have a fact about reading rates, which is then interpreted as a problem. If we have a problem, then we need someone to blame. To “blame” people for not reading is like blaming them for not listening to the radio, or swimming, or writing blog posts.
At least one Polish architect believes libraries should bear some of the blame for a lack of reading. Hugon Kowalski, who runs UGO Architecture and Design, thinks that no matter how grand or inspiring a library’s appearance is, many people will not flock to it unless it offers amenities other than plopping down with a book.
So a place that lends books for free is to “blame” for people not reading. Brilliant deduction. If I’ve learned anything over the years about architects, it’s that they don’t know much about libraries. They just want to build showy spaces and move on. For example:
So Kowalski conceived of a new kind of library that he hopes will one day be built…. On its first floor, it’s all bibliotheca: Patrons squat on moddish stools among stacks and stacks of books. But then it gets weird: In the middle of the library is a glass column full of water and flailing human bodies. Go up one level and you’re suddenly in the middle of a vast swimming facility, complete with a snaking water slide that takes whooping swimmers on a ride inside and outside of the building.
Let’s see, take a bunch of books and computers and put them in a room built under a swimming pool. Do swimming pools ever leak? Nah. This is a great idea!
Why put in a pool? It’s because surveys showed Poles don’t want more libraries. “They wanted to see more sports halls, pools, kindergartens and retail shops.” So instead of building more sports halls and pools, let’s build a building with a pool and call it a library. Since people want more pools, they’ll come to use the pool. The pool is in the library. Therefore they are using the library. QED.
This is the same lame argument everyone who wants to “save” libraries puts forward. People don’t want libraries, they want community centers, or jazz clubs, or gaming centers, or some other popular thing. So let’s put that thing in the library. Then people will come to the library! Yay! The library is saved!
It’s saved, that is, except for the people who want a library. Obviously those people don’t matter, or else librarians would be celebrating the people who do read and use libraries rather than try to trick the nonliterate to get them into a building they don’t want to use.