FORCED TO LEAVE ‘IDEA STORE’ AFTER 58 YEARS
I was issued my first library card when I was four years old, in 1958, at what was then the Whitechapel Library, next to the west exit to Aldgate East Underground station.
Since those days, the original Whitechapel library has been closed down and was replaced with the Whitechapel Idea Store on Thursday 22nd September 2005, a supposedly ‘flag ship’ of Tower Hamlets library services. To me, this new building was a cold and impersonal box, run by it’s computers instead of people. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against change, just bad changes. I must be able to accept change, I am a blogger, after all.
Throughout all of these years, I can hardly remember a time when I have had to pay a fine for late return of the (what must be) thousands of items I have loaned.
Already being disabled, two weeks ago, my leg became infected where the scar from a recent knee replacement is. This meant that any movement was painful, and as a result I have been mostly immobile, as I need to keep my leg raised as much as possible. This infection is still not cured. (See Photo taken today)
This morning I received a reminder that I had items overdue for return. I then realised that I still had two DVD’s which I should have returned, but failed to do so in the panic over my leg, so I started what was to become my painful and eventually last trip to the Idea Store.
It took me two buses to get there, and as I expected a fine, as the 2DVD’s were around 10 days late (I had loaned them just before the infection took hold), so I had put a £10 note in my pocket.
On handing the 2 DVD’s over, along with two CD’s which were returned within their time limit, I told the assistant that I realised that there would be a fine payable, and asked how much it was. I was told it was £20, as the 2 DVD’s were 10 days late and they now charge £1 per item per day. To say I was surprised is an understatement. This amount is no more than extortion. I would have gladly paid a fair amount, but this was too much. I could easily have purchased these particular DVD’s in much better condition in the local markets for no more than £2 each.
Once I told them that I couldn’t pay £20, I was told that in that case I would not be able to use my card again. They did offer a pay-off scheme, but that didn’t change the amount I had to pay, just keep me in debt to them. It was £20 or don’t have access to the service again, (and as the services within Tower Hamlets are all on the one network, thereby giving the Idea Store a monopoly, I would not have any library access at all).
I was never asked if there was any reason for the late return, although the assistant (I won’t call them librarians) could see that I was struggling on crutches.
It was £20 or never use the services again. As a point of pride I chose the second option, so I now will never again have access to any to any of the Idea Stores nationally, unless I pay an extortionate £20.
I left the CD’s and DVD’s with them and left. No doubt they have made some remark or other on my account. I would emphasise that at no time did I raise my voice or use any form of offensive language.
Once I had a chance to think about it at home, I should not have been surprised, as this is the same Idea Store that I wrote an article about a while back. Why don’t you have some fun and read it. It gives another example of how they treat the elderly and disabled.
Thinking about this, I have also written an article about what Idea Store did to the Bethnal Green Library (which was my usual, as it was closest to my home) when they did it’s ‘improvements’.
I wonder how many other elderly and disabled people they have treated this way? If you know of anyone, please let me know below, and I’ll see if I can do a follow up on this story.