Thursday, May 17, 2012

A rant about libraries

OK, I am a currently in library school training to be a librarian. I feel strongly about libraries and what they stand for. Free and open access to information is something that we should all stand behind. I have been a patron of a library ever since I can remember. Libraries are places of comfort and familiarity. No matter what city you are in you can count on the public library to be there for you.

This summer I am living in Regina, Saskatchewan. I am working a co-op in a health library. I have been here for about two weeks and the other night I went to the public library to sign up for a library card. Signing up for a library card in a new town that you live in is almost a rite of passage. I don't truly feel like I belong to a community until I have done this. I went to the library armed with a copy of my job contract because I knew I would be asked for proof that I am a citizen of Regina (even if it is just for a little while). I was disappointed to learn that this wasn't good enough. The staff member helping me didn't even seem to think that my lease would be good enough either. Instead, she suggested that I could have the library mail me a letter and then I could bring that in to prove that I live there.

Let me pause for a moment to explain that I understand how library funding works. I recognize the importance of patrons being a residence of the region (or surrounding region) that the library serves because it is their tax dollars that help to fund the library.

However, I felt that I had provided sufficient information to prove that I am indeed living here for the period of my job contract. While I will take the extra steps to provide more information about my housing, most people would not. I feel like I am a bit of an oddity when it comes to enthusiasm about library use. I believe that it is fair to say that most people use the library because it is a convenient alternative to purchasing information materials. I'm not saying that this is the only thing the library offers. It is a community space, a centre of enriching programming for all ages and and educational institution among others. If the library was inconvenient people would not use it. As librarians, one of our biggest issues is how to increase our patronage and ensure that patrons continually use our services. Without patrons, the library itself is meaningless. It is policies like this one that discourages people from using the library. Instead of setting up roadblocks we should be creating bridges for our patrons to help them use the library.

So, am I going to go back to the library with even more proof that I am real person who is really living here? Yes, of course I am. But would you?


  1. I agree, libraries should be all about ease of access. I can't imagine there are a lot of people out there scamming libraries to get library cards in places that they don't live. Good luck!

  2. I agree. The great "they" of this world make life difficult for 99.999% of honest people just because of 1% crooks. And the crooks still find a way around the system anyway. Following your blog.

  3. New follower from :)

  4. Great posting! That is quite the hassle they put you through! In London, all that I needed to show them was a piece of mail that I sent to myself! Heck, she gave me a card anyways without that information and just nicely asked me to show it to her next time I came in to pick out some books! Ease of access will definitely go a long way to making patrons feel welcome and likely to visit again.

  5. UPDATE: I finally got a card - I took in my lease and she looked at it very suspiciously.