I sat yesterday evening in that peculiar space that is Manchester Metropolitan University Library, pecking at my iPad ( as I do this I feel I resemble a pair of pigeons nodding over breadcrumbs).

In MMU library one studies against a background of the roaring white-noisiness of air conditioning, which when it abruptly ceases at 6:30, makes someone giggle with surprise. In the more distant background, the lifts repeatedly announce “Second Floor!” and “Doors Closing!” in a strict voice that reminds me uncomfortably of Mrs Thatcher. Here and there a phone vibrates on a tabletop, as a nod to the challenging concept of “quiet study,” but the person who picks it up and rushes for the foyer inevitably yells “Hallo” before they reach the door.

Occasionally the concept of quietude is misunderstood. Only an occasional one-sided telephone conversation is brazenly carried out in the room. However it’s amazing how annoying whispered conversations can be, mostly because one is caught within the paradox of not wanting to listen but on the other hand instinctively straining to make out what is being said.

Apparently hard-of-hearing library staff thump past, their walkie-talkies scolding at their hips, and proceed noisily to crash books onto sorting racks, or rustle in the depths of the recycling bins, or animatedly discuss the weather with a colleague. Interesting that both supermarket and library shelf-stackers are constantly asking each other “When are you on (or off) next?”

Our library work-surfaces are designed, it seems, for limbo dancers. To plug a laptop power supply into the nearest-available socket, one has first to poke the plug through a hairy-edged slot at the back of the desktop, then clamber beneath the desk to insert the plug into a socket hidden deep under its surface. Surely this must be breaking a dozen Health and Safety rules? Will I be able to sue for an industrial accident when I strain my back, split my trousers or bang my head?

Meanwhile, the overhead lights over the book stacks are controlled by motion sensors, and every now and then, they will eerily turn themselves off, only to go through the tedium of turning themselves on again when the next student plunges into the gloom.

I stand up to leave and find I now have at least a dozen zip fasteners to negotiate, each one echoing around the room, or so it feels. I stumble out thankfully into the rushing torrent of noise that is Oxford Road!