Tuesday, 22 July 2014

UK libraries could learn a lot from Switzerland

In contrast to the speedy dwindling of libraries in the UK, libraries are incredibly successful in Switzerland, having moved with the times and fulfilling a real need in the community – and they are everywhere – we even have a library in our local village (population c 2000)

Apart from our village library where I am a devout regular, I mainly use Winterthur Library in the centre of our nearest town. To join I had to pay 58CHF (roughly £38) which includes an annual membership (50CHF) and the cost of the library card (8CHF) Now I imagine this would be unpopular in the UK but it makes so much sense – bear with me.

I do not begrudge paying the equivalent of £32 per year for a service which includes:

  • A 24 hour return service in the foyer where you can post your books or media at any time of the day or night and get a receipt.
  • An automated withdrawal service with at least two librarians on hand to help with queries.
  • Accessible opening hours to all eg opening until at least 18.30pm every week night.
  • A children’s floor with imaginative seating zones, a special section for young adults with computers, seating, funky comics and graphic novels, info about drugs, sexual health, etc. There are children’s story times, reading challenges and links with bigger events, eg there was bar football available during the World Cup. There are also special events such as cartoon tuition for free.
  • A brilliant resource for immigrants (like us) for integration into the community with many dual language books, etc.
  • A vast film and music section, with a lounge area where you can listen to music, watch films and even play the piano with headphones. Films are free to rent for one week but beware, the fine is heavy – 2CHF (£1.30) per day! This fine also applies to books after four weeks.
  • A great self service café where artists exhibit their work, with newspapers and a huge range of magazines available. This also includes a pretty outdoor area where they hold summer events eg a seedling swap, a harvest celebration with minestrone soup making, pepper tasting, etc.
  • A comprehensive website, where you can manage your account, renew books (up to 5 months) search for items and order items. Staff get straight back to you if you email them.
  • Rental space for local groups.
Website for Winterthur Library

Passing a leisurely hour or two is common place with my two girls at our town library.

 An example of some of the events which regularly take place.

Always a surprise in store with Winterthur Library's amazing collection of quality childrens' books.

Passing the time with neighbours at our local village library.

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