Skins Vs Academics At The British Library

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Not content with their squat parties and countryside raves, it seems Britain’s army of hormonal teens have now moved in on our national library. According to a number of novelists and academics, feral undergraduates are apparently abusing those most hallowed seats of learning, the reading rooms of the British Library, by texting, flirting and … high-fiving.

“There’s loads of people dressing like they’re in an episode of ‘Skins’ and high-fiving each other,” says Matt Taunton, a 28-year-old postdoctoral research assistant, and one of many riled at the decision the institution made to open its doors to undergraduates two years ago. Writer Claire Tomalin adds:

It is absurd. It’s access gone mad. Access has many good points, but making the British Library, which was for specialist readers, into something for general readers seems to me terrible.

And we thought the teenagers were meant to be the whiners. Historian Tristram Hunt chips in:

Students come in to revise rather than to use the books. It’s a “groovy place” to meet for a frappuccino. It’s noisy and it’s undermining both the British Library’s function, as books take longer to get, and the scholarly atmosphere. The worst is that they actually answer their phones. The phone vibrates and they go, “Hold on a minute, Nigel,” and then they run out of the reading room and take the call.

Just how heinous the decline in behavioural standards at the library is, and whether this is merely a case of crusty academics failing to appreciate the necessary changing landscapes of libraries in the digitalised 21st Century, is all far less interesting than knowing whether there are really still teenagers called Nigel? That are on the look out for a “groovy place”? For a frappucino?

Image courtesy of grytr’s photostream.

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