Noises off at the library

December 19, 1997

READERS who have actually used the new British Library (THES, November 21) have been extremely disappointed. Although the reading room is pleasant enough to look at, as a place to work in it is a disaster.

The problem is noise - nearly all of it caused by the library itself. It starts at the issue desk, where there is constant commotion from the voices of staff (and readers), the ringing of telephones and, worst of all, the bleeping of the electronic scanners. Because the room is laid out on an open plan there is nothing to prevent the noise from carrying into every part of the reading area. The result is that readers are subjected to continual distraction and irritation. It is one of the worst library environments I have known, much inferior to the round reading room at Bloomsbury.

The library should have rejected the open plan and ensured that all its operations were soundproofed.

James Obelkevich Laurier Road, London NW5

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