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Library’s water bottle policy needs a little more transparency

By Brad Watts 6 July 2018 10
Water confusion - My spirits were slightly dampened when I was told to remove my plastic water bottle from the National Library to protect its priceless collections. Photo: Brad Watts

Water confusion – My spirits were slightly dampened when I was told to remove my plastic water bottle from the National Library to protect its priceless collections. Photo: Brad Watts.

I was slightly confused when a security guard asked me to remove my plastic water bottle from the National Library of Australia (NLA) recently.

Sitting quietly at a desk – surrounded by many other people who had similar water bottles – I was doing some work-related research on my laptop in the Main Reading Room when the guard approached me.

“Excuse me sir, but you must remove your water bottle immediately,” said the uniformed man in a stern voice.

Slightly taken aback, I politely inquired about why I had to get rid of my plastic sports bottle, which only contained regular Canberra tap water?

“It’s not see through and it must be removed, that’s our policy,” he said with his arms folded.

Unsure of exactly why I had been singled-out and but not wanting to cause a scene in the serene surroundings, I complied with his request and nonchalantly left the reading area.

However as my spirits were slightly dampened, I decided to investigate further and spoke with another security guard near the main entrance.

I mentioned that I had not received any information from his colleague and was unclear about the NLA’s liquids policy.

“I guess someone should have directed you to the signs,” he said, pointing downstairs to the basement area of the Library.

Sure enough, I discovered some small signs about conditions of entry near public lockers, saying food and drinks must be stored in a locker but “transparent water bottles were permitted”.

The NLA's signs about conditions of entry say food and drinks must be stored but “transparent water bottles" are okay. Photo: Brad Watts.

The NLA’s signs about conditions of entry say food and drinks must stored but “transparent water bottles” are okay. Photo: Brad Watts.

This was now making more sense. The basement signs said Library patrons should also use a clear “courtesy bag … to carry your belongings while in the Library.” This rule was designed to protect theft from the historic cultural institution.

On further investigation later that day, I found the Library’s Code of Conduct online, which says: “Pure water in transparent bottles with a tight lid may be brought into the Main Reading Room and the Asian Collections Reading Room only. Water bottles are not to be used or handled in a way that could potentially damage collection material.”

This made me think about how Canberra’s leading national cultural institutions – which are major tourist destinations – communicate their safety and entry policies with locals and visitors, including for bags, food, drinks and personal belongings.

There may be an opportunity to better educate staff and security guards to be more specific and friendlier when enforcing the rules.

As a suggestion, institutions could maybe provide fact sheets to visitors when they arrive or have clearly visible signage in the main entrance areas and foyers.

Clearer and more prominent signage could be used to highlight entry policies for institutions, including in the NLA's Main Reading Room. Photo: Brad Watts.

Clearer and more prominent signage could be used to highlight entry policies for institutions, including in the NLA’s Main Reading Room. Photo: Brad Watts.

While I understand the need for the NLA – which is one of Canberra’s grandest landmarks – to have strict rules for liquids not be splashed on its historic collections, there may be an opportunity for greater “transparency” with its policies and better signage. Having larger and more prominent signs throughout the Library would certainly help with this issue, which I am sure would also benefit people who are vision-impaired.

If these changes were made, I will certainly drink to that … with my new transparent water bottle!

Do you think entry and security policies could be better communicated to people by Canberra’s cultural institutions?

What’s Your opinion?


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10 Responses to
Library’s water bottle policy needs a little more transparency
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Blen_Carmichael 6:21 pm 07 Jul 18

I was there two weeks ago and wasn’t sure of the policies myself, so I asked – before going into the Reading Room.

Monica Wheeler Kelly 5:24 am 07 Jul 18

My library has clear “no food or drinks allowed “ signage .

Boweavil Kat 6:54 pm 06 Jul 18

Last time I looked there were many highly volatile liquids the look like water, but is feel safer now that is in a clear container.

Brad Watts 10:41 am 06 Jul 18

The NLA is certainly an iconic building and it provides excellent services. But I think the real issue here is some people – especially those who may be vision-impaired – may need more information and ‘transparency’ about these rules. Also, customer service education may help the security staff when engaging with visitors.

Connie Cardew 9:34 am 06 Jul 18

I think Brad needs to go to the library more often 😂

Emma Jones 8:07 am 06 Jul 18

Some libraries dont allow water bottles at all.There are signs indicating what you can and can't take in. Plus it's here on the website http://www.nla.gov.au/reading-rooms/main

Erin Papps 7:55 am 06 Jul 18

I study in the NLA and saw the signs the first time I went. I have never used anything except a transparent water bottle. I don’t think it is as hard as you seem to think.

Steven Warwick 7:46 am 06 Jul 18

I think the rules are pretty clear and I’ve never known anyone else to have a problem with what is quite fair. Sounds like you’re just having a whinge because you were pulled up about it. An ‘information sheet to be handed to patrons’, seriously??

    Beth Mansfield 12:48 am 07 Jul 18

    Ironically, there is a fact sheet about water bottles. Personally I think it should have one sentence on it that says 'the national collection is more important then your water bottle'.

Kristen Skinner 7:26 am 06 Jul 18

Sorry, but I use the NLA reading room and its pretty obvious what the rules are and why. It sounds like you are being obtuse. You can also get in trouble for putting your feet up on the furniture. If you do not like the rules, then studying in the basement is more casual....but no access to books.

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