Too wealthy for libraries
Posted by aogTuesday, 09 January 2007 at 15:10 TrackBack Ping URL

Daimnation! is lamenting the downgrading of public libraries in to holding pens for mass market paper backs. One of the anecdotes was amusing — a library instituted the rule that books that weren’t getting checked out would be culled in favor of more popular ones. This put paid to all of the “good” literature (such as Hemmingway).

To some extent I don’t see what can be done. People are much wealthier now and likely find ordering from Amazon or trading via on-line exchanges more convenient than going to the library and hoping a book is there. That trend is only likely to increase. In addition, political correctness and ACLU lawsuits make visiting the libr

I also find that I lack the appropriate nostalgia for public libraries. Even though I was a voracious reader as far back as I can remember, I hardly ever visited a library and then only when school necessities compelled it. So I have not a single happy memory of a public library despite living a book filled childhood. My own children are following the same pattern — we actually have to cull our own book collections because there is no more room for more shelves nor books upon them. What the kids have is happy memories of bookstores. By the time any of the kids were two years old, they would light up when a parent asked “would you like to go to the bookstore?”, so the lack of library time has meant no dimming of a passion for reading. Is this a shame or just a unimportant shift in consumer spending habits? I am not sure, but I suspect my experiences are too atypical to judge.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Andrea Harris Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 18:27

I actually do have happy memories of libraries — when I was a child, my parents first took me to the library when I was four years old, and I could already read so I was allowed to check out books. Going to the library was a weekly treat after that. But when I got older something happened. I got distracted, I guess, by life, and started missing due dates, and owing huge (for me) fines, and that took some of the fun out of the library experience. But I think that at some point I realized that the library was no longer a place that was dedicated to books so much as “community centers” full of the same dreary fake cheer as the public schools that the shine was off and I gradually lost interest in going. One thing I noticed about contemporary libraries is how noisy they are: when I first started going to libraries (this was about 1968 or so) you weren’t allowed to speak above a whisper. Now the main library here in Orlando has a coffee bar and everything. I much prefer bookstores (if I’m going to pay twenty dollars for keeping an old, beat-up library book for several months past its due date I might as well buy a new one for the same amount) and websites like Amazon.com.

URL fixed.

cjm Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 19:16

libraries are run by hard core lefties now, so i am quite happy to see them go away. it won’t be too long before all titles are onlie anyway.

Brit Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 03:10

Andrea:

Your experience could perfectly describe my own with British libraries. Also, the trouble with library books is that you have to give the damn things back, and I like to have shelves at home bulging with the things.

However, I recently re-discovered what an amazing service it can be. I needed a very obscure, long out-of-print book for some research and couldn’t find it for sale anywhere. So I went on the regional libraries website, found it was in some remote backwater library, strode down to my local one and they had it sent over - all free of charge.

I also know plenty of people who ‘borrow’ CDs from the library and copy them to iTunes…

Ali Choudhury Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 12:14

Amazon’s a lot handier. Even if you balk at the prices there, second-hand sellers offer huge discounts on books unlikely to be carried in Waterstones, Borders etc. Additionally, readitswapit.co.uk lets you trade books you’re done with for ones you might be interested in. Net result of all this is a bookshelf of 25 unread volumes acquired for a quarter or less what it would have set me back ten years ago. I only visit the library to donate books and CDs I can’t sell off.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 14:22

M. Ali;

Yes, and all of that is only to get cheaper and easier. Where the luxury of just keeping the books used to be reserved for the better off, now it’s coming in reach of anyone who just likes books.

Amazon is also handier because you never have to worry about overdue items. For some, there is also the lowered concern about damage, which doesn’t carry any additional financial penalty as it would for a library book (not for me, as I fear damage far beyond any financial issues). I don’t see why libraries won’t continue to shift toward providing disposal books that happen to be popular at the moment. In ten or twenty years booksellers will be willing to do very short runs (of potentially as few as one book) at a price that’s affordable to afficanados as printing because ever more automated.

Brit Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 14:45

I reckon about 90% of library business, at least in the UK, is little old dears borrowing staggering quantities of romantic fiction (or as Harry might insist, rape fantasies), with which they fill the long days of widowhood.

As a taxpayer, I don’t particularly begrudge it.

Michael Herdegen Friday, 12 January 2007 at 16:14

My memories of libraries are uniformly positive, extremely positive, and I’ve donated money to my local libraries even when I was fairly broke, so it was a sacrifice of love.

However, having said that, I haven’t visited a library with the intention of checking out a book since 1996. The ‘net is just too cheap and convenient, and my reading tastes have changed from fiction to non-fiction. If I were still devouring novels, I imagine that I’d still be going to the library on a weekly basis.

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