Friday, April 15, 2005

Picking out a book, check it in, check it out

National Library Week ends on tax day.

What butthead thought that up?

There are credible threats to the existence of some public libraries, coming from anti-tax activists who think everything is on the Internet, or anyone can just go to Amazon and buy anything they need. (My apologies to Lemming, TRP, and any other professional educator who just threw something out the window in fury.) Moreover, a lot of libraries are seeing restrictions in their collections, services, staffing, and hours, because they have a hard time competing for scarce state funding.

I like to think that I'm insulated from that, working in the private sector of librarianship. But truthfully, the amazing OhioLINK consortium is facing some major cuts in the Ohio state budget, which will mean some group resources will get cut. And while Small Liberal Arts College is weathering these economic times better than a lot of our peer schools, we will feel the ripple when we’re unable to pick up the state’s slack. In any situation, there’s the question of whether the administrators who hold the purse strings actually get what you’re doing and see how important it is to long-term health. (We’re fortunate enough to have a supportive administration here at SLAC, but not everyone is.)

So maybe it’s not actually bad timing. This is a good time to think about whether your tax dollars are going where you want them. If you don't know, it’s a good time to find out. Maybe your local public library can help you with that.

When was the last time you went to the library, by the way? One way to think of your taxes, after all, is that it's paying for services whether you use them directly or not. A lot of these services, like education and welfare, or defense, fire, ambulance, and police, you may either not plan on using or actively hope not to, but you still have some benefits from them existing.

But the library is fully elective. You can buy books, but you can also choose to borrow them for free, or just use them for a while and drop them off. You can rent movies at Blockbuster or Netflix, or you can discover (after years, as I did) that the local public library has a really good collection available for free. Or prepaid, if you prefer. As a Book Person, I certainly understand that some books (and magazines and videos) are objects which you just want to own. But since you’ve already paid for your library to buy the stuff you just want to look at, why not go use it? And if they don’t have what you want, look for a librarian who can tell you why not and what to do about it (and maybe something similar enough for the moment).

That’s what we're here for.

Most people like the idea of libraries. We give people the warm fuzzies, and that’s great. But here’s the basic truth: we need to see you in the doors, on the web sites, using the goodies, going to the programs, and telling the PTB that you did.


Blogger Swankette said...

I must admit I'm guilty of not utilizing the library the way I should. I'm just forgetful enough that I can never manage to return my books on time, and therefore amass such late fees I might as well have bought the book.

Or I'm usually reading several things at once, and never get around to that one thing, so return it before I've even started so I don't start amassing late fees.

So it's cheaper just to go to the used bookstore to pick up a good read.

Any suggestions for a lame-o like me? :)

6:25 PM, April 15, 2005  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Hi Swankette,

I have the same problem as you do with regards to library books. Perhaps you can donate your books to your local library. This is what I do and believe me, the library loves it, either because they can add the book to their collections or because they can sell it at one of their fund raisers and use that money to buy other books.


9:59 AM, April 18, 2005  
Blogger Joe said...

Thanks for the tip, GrrlScientist... your financial, in kind, and/or political support is always appreciated.

Here are some ideas: think of the library as destination. Just go in and see what's up. Maybe there's a book signing or a lecture. Maybe it's just a cool space. (I seem to remember Seattle's main branch making a big splash when it opened, actually.)

Go browse things before you decide what to buy. This is a great way to pick things like home improvement books or house buying books or travel books... just about anything with "dummies" in the title, actually. Things where you may need more information than you have long-term storage.

I admit it... I don't borrow many books from the public library either, and for similar reasons. (Plus, I have a year-long borrowing period at work.) But videos are pretty much a get it, watch it, return it kind of thing, so why give Blockbuster your money?

12:33 PM, April 18, 2005  
Blogger Swankette said...

Joe, have you not heard TRP and I extolling the virtues of TiVo on our blogs again and again and again. We've got a backlog of movies to watch that we've grabbed off cable and taped to VCR. Pretty much any rentals I may succumb to are from Scarecrow Video, which has one of the largest catalogues ever, including every obscure thing you've ever heard of. Probably won't find The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T at the local library.

But I will take both your and Hedwig's suggestions in hand.

5:00 PM, April 18, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

Love my local library and the staff who do their best to find me what I want, even if they can't ILL the $74 book that #3 wants me to read. Just wish that they used L of C (which i know) instead of Dewey Decimal, which I don't.

I agree that it helps if the library is built into your weekly schedule, like grocery shopping. My library is about 30 seconds away from the grocery store, which helps!

7:29 PM, April 18, 2005  
Blogger John B. said...

We spend about an hour or so a week as a family at the library...our branch around here is brand new, it has all of the 'bells and whistles' of a Barnes and Noble, etc., including a coffee shop, fireplaces, special kids area, computers, etc.

I check books out at the library, but often I just sit and read...yes, i do this at home all of the time, but my book shelves are a bit less stocked at home (but not much!). Often I bring my laptop and hook into the library's free internet wireless service...something more people should take advantage of.

Libraries are fast changing from their old ways (they are competing for patrons like everyone else), and ours is usually quite busy, especially in the fall, winter and spring.

Oh, and yes, Lemming I had to learn the Dewey system in grade scholl and high schoool, then LofC in college, then Dewey again at the local library, what's up with that!!!!

8:54 AM, April 23, 2005  

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