I love my library. I’ve loved every library that I’ve used on a regular basis, including the Carnegie Library I browsed during my six week stay in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Libraries are my way to get a ‘book fix’ without spending a fortune in books. I don’t have the luxury of a close bookstore, nor even a used bookstore. I will purchase books online, but only when I really, really want or need a certain book. So the library is my only option, and like I said, I love my library.
However, there is a problem with how my library is run. I’m sure this is the same with all libraries. They are run like a government organization, which it is, and not like a private business. They don’t have to show a profit. They don’t have to increase usage. They still get funding even if the patronage drops.
Most flourishing businesses are constantly catering to their customers. They introduce new items to entice people to buy, and to return. They run a helpful operation that cares about their customers. They want your business.
Why doesn’t the library do that? When you go into a library, there are usually books displayed to entice, yet most of the time, the books are on a specific issue, or something the librarian has deemed important. For instance, this week was Dr. Seuss’ birthday, so several of his books wer displayed. I’m perfectly fine with that, but most of the time, I couldn’t care a wit for what is usually displayed. Also, most of the time, the books are not changed often enough to attract my attention.
Part of this rant stems from the fact that my librarian and the volunteers, who now run the library most of the time, don’t really care what I check out. They don’t take the time to know their patrons. Because they don’t have to show a profit, they don’t care if I take out one book or five.
Now, I have been teased as being the one who keeps the library running since I am forever ordering in new books that tickle my fancy. While I have to admit that I have brought in a fair amount of different books, I am not the one who keeps the library running. I just, uh, help.
I used to be the substitute librarian at my library. For two years I ran my one day a week, and for a brief time, I was in charge of all the functions of the library for a month. (At 21, this was somewhat scary to me.) I loved my job and one of the best parts was getting to know my patrons, learning what they liked, and being able to recommend books to them.
Even if I hadn’t read the book, I learned what genres certain people liked, and accordingly, recommended along those lines. For the record, I didn’t have much time to read during the years of working in the library. I checked out plenty, but just didn’t read that much. Go figure.
I liked a post this Christmas that posted on last minute gifts. Read it here. Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings had it right. What a great idea for an ad campaign for the library systems. You encourage people to ‘give’ a library book as a gift. Just picture this. You see a woman browsing the shelves, looking and looking. Finally, she finds one she likes. Her eyes are excited. She takes it to the counter and checks it out, then just before she leaves the library, she takes it to the gift wrapping station, just like Barnes and Noble has every holiday season, to be wrapped up. Of course inside is a due date, but she has the perfect gift for someone. If they don’t like it, they can return it!
Well, that was my silliness escaping. However, why don’t libraries try to court their patrons? Display a wide variety of books that are available, so it catches people’s eyes. Instead of just the new titles, how about some old ones? I mean, just the other day, I found a book that has been in my library for six years and has never been checked out. Go figure why since it is a field guide to west coast lighthouses. It’s cool! But I’ve never seen it displayed.
If libraries want people to use them for books instead of just an internet source, which my library does, then they need to have incentives for patrons to keep returning. How about a running tally of the top readers. You know, where a user name, or even the patron’s name is displayed with the amount of books they have read. Or maybe a list of patron recommendations. I don’t know.
Well, this is my own rant. And I have plenty more about my library. Hey, I may love it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have problems.
What say you?