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Are Ship Libraries Wasted Space?

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Even as cruise ships grow larger and larger, they are still individual structures, with a finite amount of space.

During the  design stages those involved in the process have to find ways to fit all the required and desired areas – accommodations, restaurants and dining areas, entertainment venues, recreational areas, pool areas, relaxation areas, spas, shopping, galleys (kitchens), storage for food and supplies, etc.; not to mention all the necessary mechanics needed for operations.

Due to the leisure aspect of cruising, space for libraries have also been included in that planning. It’s been incredibly common when on a ship, to see people laying or sitting about in public areas, reading. And that still holds true. In fact, I’d guess that might be one of the most popular activities on a ship, if not the most popular.

There are certainly variations in the size of the space dedicated to libraries from cruise line to cruise line; sometimes small areas with a few hundred books available; in other cases some very elaborately designed spaces covering space on more than one deck.

People still read as much as they ever did, if not more. But modern technology has quite rapidly changed the way people read. This is evidenced by the diminishing business of printed products, including books, magazines and newspapers. Newspapers are closing, reducing, or fazing out their print editions; bookstores are closing.

It is a distinct and growing movement; people are getting more and more of their information, news, and entertainment, from non print publishing. The move to getting that information and product from mobile devices is undeniable. And it’s not just the young doing it. Though they may be the group who’ve made the move most quickly, as the mobile devices have been developed to be more user friendly, the people using it have been constantly gathering steam to be almost universal.

The cruise lines have been somewhat involved in attempting to adapt to consumer technology, first introducing Internet Cafes on board, and then moving to bow to stern Wi-Fi access on many ships. I recall in early 2000, when on assignment to write Virtual Cruise Reports, each day I had to transfer my report to a floppy disc, take it to the ship’s engineering and communications room, and they’d forward it’s content to my Editor. So, that demonstrates how much things have changed in just 13 years.

Though they’ve made great strides, I think it’s obvious the cruise lines have had some difficulty keeping up to the speed of the changes. Yes, they’ve jumped all in to the use of social media, U tube, etc.  Cyberspace is vast and they are finding their feet in those arenas.

But they do seem to have forgotten about it in their ship design; surprising because, as I’ve said, they know they have finite space to use in their designs.

With the ever growing move by the public to use tablets, kindles, and other mobile devices to keep in touch, get their news, and read books of choice, quite soon there will be no need for libraries occupying space on board, other than a single rack or shelf somewhere.

The cruise lines might want to walk around their open decks and public rooms and see how their passengers are reading now, and at least start thinking about the changes for their new builds.

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time October 16, 2013 at 4:17 am

Interesting, the ships library. These were once the places to squash innate boredom, away back long before any sort of “media” en masse was ever conceived. Some ships libraries did have card tables, and puzzle corners and the like in additional to the more formal card room, even writing room. Most of these have long gone by the wayside, replaced with computer and media lounges, many with on hand tutoring and lessons.

for whatever the reason, the library in its current form does exist on many new builds, and remains on a lot of older ships. Once relaxing in the library was the one way to fill the time of day, there were no TV’s, no casino or the like, just long wonderful days at sea.

Just as land based libraries have had to move with the tide with new trends to entice loyal fans, so have the ships libraries.

NEVER have I checked out a book from a ships library, and with the very rare exception have I even visited one during a cruise. I am well read, constantly with my nose in a book or magazine, and would be lost without my printed matter. I have yet to succumb to a tablet, I prefer the heft of a book and the smell of the pulpy pages. I dislike the extra weight in my luggage, so there is a good reason to get a tablet. .

There are three gorgeous libraries at sea, all three rich with wood and veneers -and I am sure there are many others – that are worthy of note, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. They are truly spectacular, and they not only have books, they also have a nice shop filled with nautical items for sale.

Comment from Mike Mastellar
Time October 16, 2013 at 9:37 am

The ship’s libraries have definitely changed in 13 years of cruising. They have become smaller, with fewer tables, and fewer people inside. Often the shelves are locked up and no way to take out a book if you want to. The hours for check out are very limited. The one thing I have noticed is that have become more of the snooze room. I see more people napping in the library than at the pool. The best example was on Statendam. It looked like someone had dropped knock out gas in the library with eight or nine people sleeping away.

Carnival now has the self service wine bars in some ships. Just put in your ship card and out comes a glass of wine. A nice feature but one I probably wouldn’t use. A nice quiet area is needed on all ships but the “library” per say is going the way of the dinosaur.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time October 17, 2013 at 4:15 am


You bring up good points, one the self service wine bar, not limited only the Carnival ships, it is to be found on various Celebrity and Princess ships, and to varying degrees of importance, such as quality, personal saved, et cetera – these bars, they are empty of passengers, save for the the free canapés and olives. Could be done away with? There are enough wine packages to offset the space used for these so called bars.
Another area, the library, as noted on HAL, I find the HAL passengers do take over seating and could care less about others, that’s not the problem. The problem is on the OLD Statendam class the Crows nest has been comprised to make way for the library/computer/latte space, it looks very second thought, coffee is slopped all over the carpets, crumbs cake the cushions on the seats, and yes, more sleeepers in the Crows, taking up valuable viewing areas, and most never buy a coffee not to mention a drink.

Another space, the so called culinary or cooking or whatever center – WHY? Why are they there? Truly, does someone need to learn how to peel a carrot or boil water? Exaggeration, yes, but is this really needed? Some lines actually charge for this.

Comment from Susan L. Sheppard
Time October 22, 2013 at 8:10 am

When you take a cruise, it is usually because your on a vacation. This time is to relax and enjoy the beautiful things around you. It seems like society does not know how to relax and appreciated what’s important in life. There is a time and a place for tablets, nooks etc. Using these items on vacation would be a buzz kill.

Comment from Susan L. Sheppard
Time October 22, 2013 at 8:18 am

P.S. I still enjoy opening a book and reading it.

Comment from Elizabeth
Time October 23, 2013 at 4:07 am

Anyone who thinks the ship’s libraries are wasted shape has not visited the libraries very often. I have found them filled with people especially on sea days. Yes, many people read in more “modern” ways but plenty of us prefer and are attached to our old fashioned books.

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