Bustle at the library

January 9, 1998

I WAS sorry to read Mr Obelkevich's letter (THES, December 19) complaining about noise in the British Library's new reading rooms. The reading rooms were indeed very busy during the opening period but the atmosphere is now much more calm.

We believe that much of the noise to which Mr Obelkevich refers was due to the new environment for both readers and staff.

The first opening saw many entirely new British Library readers and more enquiries than usual from readers finding their way around the reading rooms and automated searching and ordering systems. As we all become more familiar with the procedures, the level of activity around the Issue and Information Services desks is bound to subside.

Staff are positioned near the searching and ordering computer terminals to answer questions and generally provide support but in due course this will become unnecessary. Staff are aware of the need to talk quietly but telephones remain essential tools and we cannot dispense with them.

Despite this, Mr Obelkevich is not alone in his discomfort on account of the noise level. Acoustic engineers have been engaged to advise on additional ways of reducing it.

As we have only just completed our first full month of operation at St Pancras I can but ask Mr Obelkevich and his fellow readers to bear with us. We are doing the very best we can to settle into our new home and help readers to do the same. We have been grateful to our readers for their understanding of the complexities involved in the move. We thank them for their numerous messages of best wishes and support. The overwhelming reaction has been that St Pancras is a marvellous setting for scholarship and research.

Brian Lang Chief executive The British Library

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