Matthew Munson: Hive of activity in the university library

Matthew and Bryan

Universities are famous for their libraries – aren’t they? A university or a college certainly wouldn’t be complete without one. The library in my university is rather space-age; it’s over four floors, has books and other printed materials galore, and hundreds of computers (necessary in this digital age). It’s also open until one in the morning, and I’d be fascinated to see how busy it was at that time of night – I bet there are people who prefer to study then (the thought leaves me cold).

I’m sat in the university library as I write this week’s column, and it’s a hive of activity. A friend of mine works here, and I tried to track her down this morning so I could get some facts about the place, but she wasn’t at her desk – we shall be having words, believe me.

As I watch the world move around me, I can see a group of students in a quiet study room having an intense discussion about something or other; I tried to peer round the door and see what they were looking at on the big screen, but failed miserably in my spycraft. There are a couple of library staff moving books around, and a student is listening to a lecture on her laptop – I’m almost tempted to offer her my headphones, as the noise is a little irritating, but I shall refrain. There are students galore on the computers, and it really feels alive – a proper hub for research and work, and I like it.

I’ve always been fond of libraries; I worked in them, for three and a half years. It was my first “proper” job after a couple of retail jobs, neither of which I was really suited for. But I loved working in the local public libraries; it was just fun. I took it seriously, but when you were surrounded by people you mostly liked and got on with, you couldn’t help but enjoy yourself as well. A manager and I really didn’t on, and that was a shame, but I genuinely respected the rest of my colleagues. I was recruited by an area manager who liked to take the chance on people, and I was an inexperienced eighteen year old when I went for the interview. She didn’t have to take me on, but she did – and I was appreciative of that opportunity every day.

I remember going to Ramsgate Library when I was a child. My mum would usually take me on a Saturday morning for story time sessions with one of the librarians. Eighteen years later, he was still working there, and I actually worked with him a lot – that freaked him out a little, I think, and I loved teasing him about it from time to time.

When my own son came home, he didn’t go to school for a couple of weeks, so we went to Broadstairs Library every single morning to do some lessons together. It was usually just English and Maths, although given that my maths skills weren’t that great, that was sometimes sidelined a little. His teachers were far more capable than me to teach him maths, and I was glad when they took over.

Half term starts for us this week (Bryan’s school does a two-week October half term), so we’re planning our time together. It’s a privilege for me to spend time with my brilliant son over the holiday, and we’re planning to go up to London for a couple of days along with a quick trip to his wonderful siblings and their family.

I also have to say a quick thank you. I’ve bumped into a couple of people recently who have been kind enough to say that they read my column every week. It was really lovely to meet you, and I apologise that I forgot entirely to ask your names. I was so surprised and delighted that you had stopped to talk to me that I managed to forget the basic courtesies – if we meet again, I’ll make sure I remember to ask!


  1. Never liked school, college or libraries they were all a bit formal, noisy with far to many distractions – Learned to read and write and did basic science but for me it was far to mundane.
    Thank god for Open University, had I been born with a silver spoon in my mouth I could have had private education with 12 in a class instead of the 35+ with 70% of them not wanting to learn a thing a total waste of valuable young learning time – I would imagine its even worse these days – Bung 50 kids in a classroom with one teacher and then pay peanuts for non-professional classroom assistants to take up the slack.
    Unfortunately education has taken a dive just like the rest NHS/Police/housing etc etc etc and so much extra pressure put onto the Teachers after the great Tory ‘cut backs’ and years of austerity – What a total mess this country is in.
    My tip for any new parent is work hard and get your kid into the private education sector ASAP or they will be stacking shelves in Tesco for the rest of their lives or worse still joining the rest of the drug dealing gangsters already well established here in Thanet.

    • The OU was a brilliant institution. I did several courses of study there, spread over decades.
      I loved the summer schools.

    • Don’t vote for any party. They all serve secular interests … party interests.
      Haven’t you had enough of all of them? Time for a real change and not a cosmetic change.

    • M.M.Rees, what relevance does your comment have to this subject? You comments always seem to have nothing to do with any article, but hey, at least you’re consistent.

  2. Robert, what is your idea of a real, not cosmetic change, not brought about by voting? I respect (but disagree with) your “they’re all the same, it’s not worth voting” mope, but unless you’re advocating a national huff, which I can’t imagine will change much, isn’t the alternative revolution? I’m not sure that’s ever worked out well. Do tell..

  3. Matthew, I enjoyed your piece about libraries. I worked in a public library for many years, and it’s lovely to be reminded of the difference our libraries can make to people’s lives. They are under more threat than ever in these penny pinching times. I still have good friends working in libraries to this day, and they tell me what a social hub they still are, and a source of information and helpful guidance in so many ways, as well as still lending books. Use them while you can, and protest at any proposed further cutbacks, for I’m sure they’ll come.

  4. Abolish the party political system and have representation on an occupational level. That’s for starters.
    Democracy means rule by all the people. We do not have this. We have rule by only one section of the people in the form of a political party. For true democracy we need all levels of society involved in complete cooperation. Not this popularity contest putting one group against another.

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