Like a lot of people, I missed the hint from your companions that you’re supposed to stare down the librarians. On one hand, this is a great mechanic. The stare-down is unnerving and reinforced what Khan had to say about thinking before shooting. On the other hand, I think it was way too easy to miss (a lot of people missed it, not just me) and an uninformed player might easily find themselves unable to proceed because there aren’t enough bullets to kill all the librarians.
Lucky for me, I was using the volt driver and had bought a massive stockpile of ammo many stops earlier. I was fine in this section of the game, despite getting hilariously turned around and confused at a couple of points.
I think a lot of the problems with the library boil down to malfunctions or mis-communications with two important mechanics: The staring and the gas masks. Both are interesting, both reinforce the themes and atmosphere of the game, and both lead to awful game-killing failure states if the player messes up.
While I don’t think there are simple answers for these issues, here are my own suggestions for how I’d try to alleviate them:
1) I think that the staring mechanic needed more than one mention. Lots of people (myself included) seemed to miss it because their character was gasping for air on a low filter, thus drowning out the NPC’s. Either that, or they were running around looting. (Perhaps trying to grab all the stuff before the next camera-grab cutscene shoved them through a one-way door.) I think it would have been good to have a conversation about the librarians earlier in the game, preferably someplace where the player wouldn’t have a gas mask on.
2) Assuming we can’t snap our fingers and make Polis a full city (alas) then I’d suggest putting the shop AFTER the council meeting. When the player rolls into town, the next item on their list is “attend meeting”. When they exit the meeting, they know (roughly) where they are going and can plan accordingly. It’s one thing if the NPC offers the player some friendly advice to buy filters. It’s another thing if that player is properly informed (and not completely distracted by a new town) when the advice is given.
I notice both of these fixes involve Polis. I really suspect that Polis needed to be cut for budget reasons and as a result we ended up with these rough spots as a side-effect.