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Library 0.5

October 23, 2006

Yesterday I decided it to stop by the local public library (surprised it was open on Sunday in this small town) and get a library card. Simple, right? Librarians, especially new librarians to a small town who want to know other librarians and how the public library operates, would naturally apply for a library card.

So, I did. The first time I have ever been asked for a “reference” in order to have the privilege of checking out books in the town I know pay some kind of taxes to. A reference? I asked the staff person behind the desk (it was surprisingly busy, a good sign, I thought) *why* a reference? I know no one well enough to give as a local reference. She replied, “It’s in case you don’t return your books and we call you and can’t reach you–it is so we can reach someone who can get in touch with you”. Oh really. Sort of a library accountability policy? I was blown away. And I tried (really, I did) not to come off as being absolutely amazed and condescending but I probably failed at that. But, geez louise, a reference? A REFERENCE? The fact I wasn’t asked to prove that I actually lived in the county and am eligible for library service was not an issue. I offered my university ID since my drivers license is still from the state I moved from. I was assured that was not necessary but a reference was, just in case I don’t return my books, you know. Because, well, this library needs their books, a small collection that is obviously used, that’s for damn sure.

So, I wrote down the university as my reference and won the privilege of checking two books out for two weeks. If, and that’s a big IF according to the library staff person, I return them on time, then I can check out as many as I want. Ok. That’s cool. That is a rule that I understand. For the life of me I cannot fathom the reference and not checking my eligibility for library services.

But, a nice library. Internet access, small but active children’s area, good periodicals, although limited in scope, of course. So expensive. Nice public services on the bulletin board. Collaboration with the university would be such a good thing if possible.

I love to visit libraries. Some have draconian rules. Visiting Boston Public just to check a reference while on a business trip require about 17 hoops to jump to get inside special collections. But, that’s Boston, right? And this is the South and things are different here. References required, no barefeet and (this is a sign I see at my physician’s office among other places), “please, no firearms”.  The social contract that is evident in this culture. The “please” part is cool. No hard-line statements “NO FIREARMS ALLOWED” but, “please leave your firearms outside” or some variation on the assumption that firearms are carried by most people and these places would ask you not to bring them in. Got to get a photo of that and post on Flickr.

So, I have a library card and two books that are checked out with the due date stamped with a grocery store price sticker on the front cover. Of the whole experience (which was observed and commented on by very many middle-aged white women behind me and hovering around listening, I mentioned it was small, right?), the thing that bothered me the most was the sticker that was used to indicate the due date that is stuck on the outside of the book cover. Yikes. I have to resist the urge to peel the legions of stickers mine is covering over because I keep thinking how bad it is for the binding to have these stickers stuck on it. I guess not having cards and pockets or a slip of paper and an ink stamp (although the ubiquitous barcode is evident) is too much trouble.

This library, though dear, is ready for Library 1.0, eh?

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