Friday 16 October 2009

The missing human connection

Two days ago I visited the British Council Library after a long time. During our post graduation, BC (as we used to fondly call the Library)was a regular hang out. All of us in the class would plan and choose the topics for which we wanted books for and make a trip. Since the place was quite far from our College, it was a long journey but then we were a gang of many so we happily went to BC. The journey was interspersed with comic anecdotes, stories of our quirky profs, a recap of the books we wanted and assignments for which the deadlines were fast approaching. That was the nostalgic bit which never ceases to tire me.

Present: I was shocked to see BC totally revamped. The spacious library has shrunk in space and of course the number of books have reduced. The management section has grown considerably unlike the literature one which does not boast of many books. I often found myself stepping aside for a person to pass by and this takes up the precious time and also disrupts the process of looking for a book. And the most disappointing aspect of BC was the absence of people sitting in the counters and telling us politely that the books were overdue or the time for returning the books. Now a shiny card does everything. One has to swipe the cards for renewal or return. First it was the ATMs which shut out human contact and now even the libraries follow suit.

It used to be a great relief to see the polite staff behind the desks smile at us and provide the necessary details about the books. I say relief as it was a welcome break from looking at the books for a longer period. If we were regulars at the Library then the 'familiarity' smile that would greet us was lovely indeed! Now there is nothing like that. BC has many value added services that has occupied the space meant for books. The corporate ambiance screams loud at every corner of the place making people like me restless and listless.

I am glad that the American Library (USIS) in Cathedral Road in spite of every hype remains the same where the books as well as the staff are friendly as ever. The icing in the cake is that I also get the 'familiarity' smile as I enter the Library.


  1. Gone are the days when...huh! u brought back memories of our BC trips from class. sorry to hear its getting corporate, well i guess everything is turning 'corporate' these days, even kindergartens.glad to hear USIS is still friendly, wow! i used to frequent dre while i was doing my research.keep writing my friend, Buena Suerte!:)

  2. Hey, i used to go to BCL so often when i was in junior college, but now I hardly find enuff time for it..

    its kinda sad to hear that its gotten all corporate and sanitised..

    I always thought the American Library had a more limited we never went there..

    but I kinda feel sad that so many of the old things are changing around me..

  3. Ann: You were part of that nostalgia. That post is for you too. Glad that you read that. Miss those days

    Bluey: American Library is still a library in that sense. The collection is decent I guess. A cliche for you: Change is the only thing that is constant.

    Missed your presence in my blog! Glad that you have come :-)

  4. I am surprised by this. I have been a member of BL for the last 33 years, (starting with a juvenile membership in Delhi to currently Classic family membership in Pune.)
    I have been visiting Pune BL for over two decades now. While it has modernized to a great extent and I keep seeing changes every now and then, the staff has remained as courteous, cooperative and of course smiling as ever.
    I would then risk saying that this must be because of the Pune librarian. If I remember right, this post is currently graced by one Ms. Kajari Mitra.

  5. Pushkaraj: The staff are very friendly, no doubt but the cards which can be swiped have left no work for the staff. Maybe the Pune one is still faithful to the true blue library culture.

  6. I am not a BC guy but a rare one who used his local government library during school days. I agree we are quick losing the human touch. The mobile phones have created human islands. Earlier bus-stops and electric trains (that's how the suburban trains are called in Madras oh! Chennai, I hope still) bred new acquaintance and friendships but now people talk to machines(mobile) and listen to machines (i-pods) restricting themselves to known circles. Of course, technology has opened doors through facebook and Orkut to meet new people but our topic was ...human touch.



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