Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why are study rooms sitting empty at the new Central Library in San Diego?

Room 853 on the eighth floor of the new Public Library in downtown San Diego sat empty today as clients were told that no study rooms were available.
Room 854 also sat empty.

Note the sign in room 853 saying, "Please do not open the windows." The windows open!? Is this the reason that I wasn't allowed to use the rooms? Is the library afraid someone will open the window and step out on the ledge? Or worse, step off the ledge?  Can't the library simply lock the windows if it's afraid someone will try to commit suicide here? 

Here's what the website for the library says:

Study Rooms -- 20+ rooms to choose from
Capacity* 2-6
Onsite booking for up to 2 hours, first come, first served basis at the 1st floor Computer Service Desk.

On Feb. 18, 2015 I went to the front desk and mentioned that study rooms were sitting empty while clients were being told that no rooms were available. I was told that only a group of six people could use the rooms pictured above.  (The library website contradicts this claim, clearly stating that 6 is the maximum, not the minimum, number of individuals allowed in these rooms.)

To emphasize her point, the clerk held the room 853 key card right in front of my face for over 30 seconds. Eventually her arm got tired (I was impressed with the stamina of her arm muscles; I think she works out) and she set the card down on the counter in front of me and indicated that I should keep reading it until I understood it. I took a picture of it.  I'm pretty sure I understand it.

 I mentioned that the taxpayers built the library and that the public was not served by having the rooms left empty.  A different employee retorted that the library had been built mostly with donations!

Of course, the taxpayers are paying the salary of this employee who apparently believes that the public should have no input into how the library is used.  Does this woman not know that once donations were accepted by the City of San Diego (and the donors had received their hefty tax deductions), the money belonged to the public?

I doubt that Robin and Gerald Parsky demanded that room 853 be reserved for them in case they might want to drop by with a group of friends and a burning desire to sit in a cold place.  (It turns out that a concrete room exposed to the elements on two sides doesn't get much benefit from the library's heating system.)  Rather, I think we have lazy library employees who use any excuse, no matter how false or ridiculous, to turn away questions about how the library is utilized.

I wrote to San Diego Public Library's Cynthia Shutler, Supervising Librarian, Central Library, 619-236-5880,  I'll report on her response.

by Maura Larkins

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