Our Nice Local Library

I use this title in two senses. Firstly, I used to really like our local library. It was close. The people were friendly. There were good books. The second sense is a sarcastic sense because you are about to find out it isn’t so nice anymore.

What isn’t nice about it?
1) They have so many people working there that it isn’t like coming in to a friendly and familiar face. Often it is someone I don’t know at all. Sometimes they are friendly, and other times they aren’t. Maybe it is just because they are busy. Or the guilt of knowing they are working for “The State.”

2) I have read all their decent books now. Their half-way decent and maybe wholesome books have been replaced by Harry Potter and all of that junk. And if there’s a book I particularly want, they are bound not to have it. It is like a law of the universe. I want a book, therefore they will not have that book. I’ll have to write up an inter-library loan request slip for the book. Sometimes it will go through. Sometimes I’ll get the book. Sometimes I’ll get it the next week. Or sometimes it will take a month, or two. One time I was doing some studying on WWII and requested a book. It didn’t come, and I eventually forgot about. Months and months later I was studying ancient Rome and the library called. “Do you still want this book on the battles of WWII?” “Uh, no thanks. Too late now.” So that’s frustrating. Very frustrating. And on a related note, they have very few good movies, and that’s pretty much all we use the library for now. We’ve nearly exhausted their supply of good movies. Their DVD collection keeps growing, but the good movie collection keeps shrinking. Doesn’t anyone at this library have any taste?

3) The library is slowly becoming less efficient. It used to be that I could go there and get color copies. As we’re pretty much out in the middle of nowhere (at least when it comes to office stores and color printers) I liked that. Sure, I had to pay for it, but when I needed a last-minute poster for an event or something, I knew I could go there. Now all they have is black and white. Several people (including me) have had a difficult experience with the library. I returned a book (very thick bright colored book, couldn’t miss it) and then got a letter saying that I needed to return the book. I explained that I knew I had returned it, but I got another letter. We went to the library and searched the shelves in case it was misplaced. No avail. We (my mom and I) go to the library office to tell them that no, we aren’t going to pay for this book because we did return it. Btw, isn’t it their job to prove that we’re guilty of not returning it? Anyways, so the person in charge (who signed the letters to me) was there and I spoke to them. They turned around, looked up on a shelf (this is in their back office) and says, “is that the book?” pointing to a large bright colored volume which did turn out to be the book. Now, why didn’t they know it was there? Or think to look for it there? I know, I know, people make mistakes. That’s okay. I’m allowing for that. But I’ve heard from several people in our district who have had the same problem.

Also, they’ve apparently had trouble with young people there because they had to post the rules of behavior for while in the library. They don’t allow anyone under 18 to check out any movies without their parent being present and giving permission. They make you show your library card (no memorizing the number anymore), I’m assuming so they make sure you’re really who you say you are. Come on, this is a little-bitty town that has one block for a downtown, two gas stations, a couple fastfood restaurants and some odds ‘n’ ends places. Since when did they need to do all this? Is it just another signal that society is digressing?

So, now what? What are we to do?
Well, as I lectured my sisters this morning, we should not be surprised at the condition of the library. It is, after all, part of the government. The government can’t be efficient. Even if the government were full of saints (rather an oxymoron, since when were saints thieves?) it would still be inefficient. It is government. So I’m not getting after this one library or blaming it on the people in charge of the library. It is just what we should expect from this institution which has such a monopoly. And that’s what it comes down to. A monopoly. No private company would dare act like this library for fear another company would “steal” all their customers. A private company would try to cater to a large customer base. “You like Harry Potter? This is the place for you. Jane Austen fans? We’ve got every book and movie related to Jane Austen here. Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie people? You’ll love our library.” Take away the state-sponsored monopoly and our little library would soon be gone. It would be swallowed up by more efficient companies that cater to the people instead of running over them.

Libraries and books are very dear to my heart, so I like thinking about what a private library would be like. Imagine the cozy aura of Barnes and Nobles, minus the overpriced and leftist books. Coffee. Snacks. My favorite books. Good rates. Yum.

5 Comments

  1. “Jane Austen fans? We’ve got every book and movie related to Jane Austen here.”
    ~
    Unfortunately, such a library would have Jane Austen’s “Emma.” Ugh. All the other Jane Austen movies are good, especially Colin Firth’s performance as Mr. Darcy!

    • Haha, I kinda like Emma. The book is good. The movies are so-so. Have you seen all the different versions? Perhaps there’s another one you’d like better. The newest Emma is okay, and the BBC one is also good. The BBC one is quite old, and we’re not very fond of their style of making movies, but the characters are, I think, the best ones I’ve seen yet. If you get past the home movie-like camera angles and so forth, it is quite good. And I agree, nothing can beat Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice 🙂

  2. Hey, Savannah! To address some of your points from a different viewpoint: Libraries, in general, develop their collections based on the needs/desires of their individual communities. No library can provide every book that every patron might want to read. You might not like Harry Potter books, but they are wildly popular in libraries. Interlibrary loan is a great service that allows patrons to request particular books that aren’t in the collection. The length of time it takes to get an interlibrary loan book is not dependent on the requesting library but rather on the lending library. Often the request goes to several libraries before it is filled, and, at times, the request has to be resubmitted if it’s returned unfilled. All of this can take time. But what an amazing service that (most) public libraries are still able to offer free of charge, which I really doubt a private, for profit organization would do. I requested a book for a patron that only one library in the entire country owned — and they sent it to us — how great is that? Having to show a library card or ID is common practice. It’s for the protection of the person who holds the card so someone who may somehow see the number on your card cannot use it. Coffee, snacks, the whole bookstore model is a huge trend in libraries right now — not one that I care for but sounds like you would so perhaps you’ll have a library like that one day. I don’t think libraries are inefficient because they are government run. Because of the economy, libraries are having to make do with considerably less money and are trying to preserve core services as much as possible. In our district, if you have to purchase a card because you’re outside the district (i.e. not in any library’s district), it costs you $120 per year, which is supposed to be comparable to what you would pay in taxes for the library if you lived in the district. So for that amount of money, your entire family can check out books, audio books, magazines, DVDs, musical CDs, and use the Internet (which many of our patrons cannot afford for themselves). We also offer reading programs for all ages in the summer, for children and teens in the winter, story hour for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, occasional book clubs for older kids, programs for childrens and teens, as well as adults. We also preserve and archive local history, provide meeting rooms for all kinds of groups for a reasonable charge, provide resources for teachers, answer reference questions, connect people with services, register people to vote, provide some assistance to people using our computers, offer low cost computer classes, and I’m sure I’m missing something. I love cookbooks, craft books, homekeeping type books, children’s books — I can find all kinds of things to read at my library. If your library is too small to be able to carry a wide variety of books, remember that your library card is good at any Illinois library. You may be limited in some services provided by a particular library since you are outside its district, but you can check-out books.

  3. I am very happy for interlibrary loans and have used that service a great deal. However, I know that in several cases the length of time it took to get the book was due to my library misplacing or misfiling the request slip.
    I think part of the problem with my library is the nearby highschool, which, I’m told, is where the kids who got kicked out of Rockford schools go. So that isn’t really the fault of the library, but they are having to change to deal with the influx of teenagers.
    But as you say, libraries are tax-funded. What if we didn’t have to pay that tax and could instead take our $120 and go to a private library of our choice? It would benefit all private libraries to continue the tradition of interlibrary loans, since it would probably attract more customers. And maybe a private library would actually offer more and cater to the public better than a non-profit organization because they are trying to get more people to come in and use their services (and hence, make a profit). They might even come up with a better way to provide the services that public libraries offer now, I have no idea. 🙂
    Thank you for your perspective on it though, that’s really interesting to know. I enjoyed reading your comment.

  4. I think you would have to pay a whole lot more than $120/year and the cost would be prohibitive for many, many people. Libraries do not receive all their money just from actual users of the library. If we did, we wouldn’t have much of a library at all. We will have to disagree on the value of public library service to the community and the funding thereof. I enjoy reading your blog!

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