Monday, October 29, 2007

All Things to All People

Today I was a bit hesitant to post. There's such a good argument going on in the comments to Friday's post (75 responses so far), and I hesitate to slow down a good argument by distracting everyone with another post. Still, I know most of you get this through a feed and never click through to see the comments, and slackers like you need entertainment, too.

Besides, one of the comments this morning amused me and I wanted to share it with you:

"Frankly, I am a bit tired about all this talk about video games and teens. Just offer video games and be done with it. I think there is another need not previously addressed by libraries. A lot of women have a serious fashion need that simply is not accessible to those with a low to moderate income. I think public libraries should acquire designer shoes and purses to loan for a period of two weeks. Yes, you run the risk of people never returning these items, but aren't your citizens worth the risk. Besides, you can turn delinquent patrons over to a collection agency. This also affords ladies the opportunity to try before you buy. I think it is a win-win situation. Perhaps, libraries should also get in to the business of collecting formal wear. This would be a great marketing strategy to attract teenage girls to the library. There could be YA programs focusing in prom hair and make-up."

I read that and slapped my forehead with enlightenment. (I'm not sure that sentence makes sense, but I think you know what I mean.) Why shouldn't public libraries offer fashion accessories to their "customers"? After all, isn't the job of the library to meet all the needs of the public? That's what some of my commenters keep saying. This at least is more practical for people than hosting dance parties. Fashion doesn't have to be frivolous, though that's the best thing about it. What about business suits so poor people can look good for job interviews? The right pair of shoes or the right suit could make the difference between getting a job and not getting one, especially for people with no marketable skills. I know I got my job purely on the strength of my skirted power suit (which highlighted my shapely calves).

Libraries should stock other useful stuff, too. What about cookware or power tools? This would be great, especially for urbanites with small apartments who have little storage, but who every once in a while could really use a large roasting pan or a circular saw. Better yet, why not have kitchens people can use? Every once in a while it would be an enormous boon to me to have a second oven. Why not: Second Ovens @ Your Library? And what about those carpet steaming machines that grocery stores sometimes rent? Those would be great. And rental cars! People are used to checking out novels for a long trip. Wouldn't it be great if you need a car for a long trip to know you could just go check one out from the library?

And what about those dangerous urban libraries? The ones dealing with games and drugs and homeless people? Librarians might be frightened of gangs, but gang members and drug dealers are community members as well. Their needs should be met. Libraries could supply semi-automatic weapons for gang members to check out in case their own were confiscated by the police. If that seems like capitulating to violence, what about needles? Libraries could rent out sterilized needles for junkies. They could include a free condom with the needles bearing the library's logo. A library in Los Angeles removed a bench outside when it became a hangout for prostitutes, but don't these prostitutes have a place in the library as well? Should we discriminate against them? I know from all the movies I've seen that prostitutes always have hearts of gold. Providing a library bench for someone with a heart of gold seems okay with me. Why not provide them with bedrooms so they can practice their trade. Is this any different than providing computers so people can fill out job applications? Some librarians complain about homeless people. How they smell bad and make weird sounds and offend people and stuff like that. But if we want to cure homelessness, we need homes for people. What better place for these homes than the library? Sleeping cubicles and showers seem in order, not complaints. This could be used for the prostitutes as well. Meet all the needs of the community!

And definitely babysitting and social work services. Some parents already like to drop their kids off at the library so that the librarians can suffer for a while just like the parents do at home. Why not just make this official? Babysitting @ Your Library. People would love it! The library seems like a good place for social work as well. Why should these poor messed up people who need social working have to go to two different locations? Let them take care of everything @ the library.

But is there room for all this? Sleeping cubicles and rental cars take up space, after all. Well, libraries are already becoming computer storehouses. Since apparently no one reads books anymore and librarians like to get rid of the books to make more room for computers (please the customers!), why not just get rid of all the books. That would leave plenty of room for sleeping cubicles, rental cars, cookware, and power tools.

I know for a fact there are already tool lending libraries, so why not expand?

One reason, I suspect, is interest. Libraries get some hip new librarians who like to play video games and dance, so they push to have more videogaming and dancing in the library. If these same hip young librarians like to cook or woodwork more, then we might have more cookware and tools. If more librarians we more dedicated to their apparent social work mission, they'd push for more sleeping cubicles. If more librarians rented cars, they'd understand the need.

It couldn't be that one thing is part of the mission of the library and another one isn't, because the library is there to meet the needs of everyone, right? The library has no mission other than to get people in the door so that librarians can keep their jobs. That ALA guff about educating the citizens and providing information access to all is just so much empty rhetoric. Even my most infotainment-minded readers will admit that the library is there for both the educational and recreational needs of the community. Cookware and tools can be both educational and recreational. Since there is no purpose to public libraries besides entertaining the people so they'll keep coming in, add some pots and pans and powertools, along with extra kitchens and fashion accessories. If you want to compete with the mall, dammit, you've got to be creative!

Some might say, "But AL, we don't have enough money for all this stuff!" We'd love to rent cars and provide sleeping cubicles for homeless people and prostitutes, but we can't afford it! If you don't have enough money, just raise taxes. Have a referendum. Surely people will vote to raise their taxes if they know that public libraries are hosting dance parties and providing cookware and purses and rental cars. Be creative! Meet the needs of your "customers"! Be all things to all people!

79 comments:

contrarian said...

This is in line with the Humorless Unionator's philosophy of "a librarian at every table." Every damn table you can think of in order to build community. I say we go for it!

Sobe said...

I am new to your blog and enjoy it - cheers!

Talking Books Librarian said...

He he, I am just one of the "slackers" checking in to read the comments.... :)

Anonymous said...

You know what this blog reminds me of?

Remember those parents in the 50s who used to whine and bitch that that all that rock 'n' roll sounded like cats fighting in a garbage can? And Elvis' hips were going to cause spontaneous pregnancy and why don't we just let them have sex RIGHT ON the Ed Sullivan Show for God's Sake.

That's AL. Tired, crabby, terrified sanctimony passing as sarcasm and satire.

"Heh, why don't you hipsters just marry they internet if you love it so much ... " Then the rest of the iron lungs who read this crowd around and high-five, jubilant that someone finally stuck it to those meddling kids with their cellular phones and their text messages and whatnot.

As amusing and ground-breaking as your reducto ad absurdum, why don't we loan vaginas to the sexually frustrated style of criticism is -- it sounds like the same song I've ever heard from every grumpy, calcified, bullying old fart I've ever had the misfortune to work with.

Retired but still working.

Anonymous said...

Dear AL.

I understand and respect your wish to remain anonymous, but is there any hope for us to be given a glimpse of your "shapely caves?"

Anonymous said...

The reason that libraries attract such riff-raff is that all the other places that the riff-raff used to go to were shut down in the 70s and 80s, and the homeless shelters and soup kitchens aren't open all day. It's time to shut down the public libraries once and for all, and put these people back out on the street where they belong.

Anonymous said...

it sounds like the same song I've ever heard from every grumpy, calcified, bullying old fart I've ever had the misfortune to work with.

Not me baby! What kind of "old fart" would want to loan out 4 inch Jimmy Choo's and Gucci luggage? I say this is a brilliant idea. We should start a fashion lending library!

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:32 Number One: I second the motion. Or is it "motion the question"? I never was very good at Robert's Rules of Order.

AL, for tomorrow's post, maybe you could put it to a vote?

Anonymous said...

fwiw, I used to know of a library that had a collection of cake pans they lent out to patrons. Highly popular.

Degolar said...

That's AL. Tired, crabby, terrified sanctimony passing as sarcasm and satire.

While I generally disagree with her and my basic philosophical stance differs from hers (I'm head of our video game committee, for instance), AL does bring up some valid points. That's why so many people appreciate her voicing their concerns. It's important to consider where "the other side" is coming from in making decisions.

Anonymous said...

Public libraries were created and designed to be book and reading based. And, despite the incompetence of professional librarians, were fairly well setup to this purpose.

However, the world of information and its delivery have changed with cataclysmic force over the last thirty years, and we are only at the start of this revolution.

The reality; the public library is not suited to serve or reflect the needs of most modern communities. The public library I direct is mostly used for DVD circulation. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. As most of the books published and hawked in Library Journal, PW and Kirkus are just recycling of the same pat nonsense anyway, how can we claim their superiority over DVDs?

We can’t. What we’re up against is the reality of circulating books vs. media. The for profit sector–Blockbuster et al–are better suited to circulate media, while the non profit library is better suited to circulate books. A DVD takes a few hours at most to watch, there’s no need for an extended borrowing period, but a book can take twenty or more hours to read. It’s very hard to make a profit in a book lending business.

When books were the primary means of distributing information, there was a rational need for a tax supported institution to make them available to the public. This need no longer exists, and attempts at reinventing an institution designed to serve the public of fifty years ago is doomed to fail. The money used to support public libraries should be given back to the public, but that will never happen given the corruption of most local politics. A multi purpose rec center, which libraries are being converted to anyway, is a better idea.

There is an interesting article, found here: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/Death%20of%20Reading%20page.htm

From the article, published in 1991 by the way:

“Socrates, who lived a few hundred years after the invention of the Greek alphabet, when writing was transforming Greek culture, strenuously argued the superiority of the oral culture it was replacing. According to Plato's (written) account, Socrates predicted that the use of writing would weaken memories and deprive "learners" of the chance to question what they were being taught.”

A final thought here. Will libraries go away overnight? No, as long as local politicians can use them as a political fodder, they’ll remain. But when this new generation comes to power, these dancing, book and reading repelling kids, the libraries will evaporate like puddles on asphalt. Information and the way it’s exchanged is in the crude beginnings of a new revolution like the one Socrates bemoaned. Libraries simply aren’t going to be involved.

Anonymous said...

For god's sake, let's not stop there. We need to get art and music and sports out of the public schools. Maybe then the kids can concentrate on getting an education, like when I was in school. And if that doesn't work, close the public schools.

Anonymous said...

I know a public library that loans out puppets, games, and travel kits for kids. Talk about a waste of resources! And this is in a town whose population can well afford to purchase all these things and more. Why, most of the kids who come in during the day are accompanied by nannies, not parents. Public libraries are undermining the entire economy and should be done away with for that reason alone.

AL said...

"As amusing and ground-breaking as your reducto ad absurdum, why don't we loan vaginas to the sexually frustrated style of criticism is -- it sounds like the same song I've ever heard from every grumpy, calcified, bullying old fart I've ever had the misfortune to work with."

Well I guess you put me in my place, Miss Missy! Pity I never got a chance to work with you (or did I?), because you sure sound like loads of fun, and not a calcified bully like me. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I could have fun with this. Loaning out guns? Why not? I can still remember when collecting and shooting guns was seen as something normal, not the modern day assumption you must be a terrorist or militia member.

I could see it like this:

"What do ya need, Jerry?"

"I want to try something different, the Mossberg is getting boring."

"Let's check here on the shelf, umm...Dewey Decimal 623.4...which nationality do you prefer?"

"Nationality?"

"It's the way they're cataloged, like Italian, French, etc."

"German."

"Ah, here we go. G-36K with optical sight, and an MP7A-1. Rock'n'Roll."

"Thanks! Say, what's wrong with that woman over there?"

"The one pale as a sheet and trembling?"

"Yeah."

"That's Lois, she joined the library back when flaming left wing liberalism was in style. Now she's just catatonic with horror."

"Eh, too bad."


On a serious note, the only future I can see as an institution that is meaningful and doesn't try to copy /intrude on everyone else's turf is to meld with archives and become repositories of physical media.

However, that still requires money the people don't want to spend, and then there's those pesky librarians convinced that to be relevant they have to ape everything.

So let's Dance Dance to video games while Rome burns, it doesn't matter that this point......

Anonymous said...

"...why don't we loan vaginas to the sexually frustrated style of criticism is -- it sounds like the same song I've ever heard from every grumpy, calcified, bullying old fart I've ever had the misfortune to work with."

I can honestly say I've never worked with a calcified bullying fart who suggested *that*.

Tootin' along said...

Why is that libraries and schools and Walmart are the only ones who seem to have this idea that they have to be "everything to everybody".

Sure we need to keep up with current technologies, but with the purpose of providing free access to information. It's great if libraries can partner with other groups to provide more, but this whole thing is getting more ridiculous by the day.

And apparently there a lot of librarians who don't listen to the users who still like to come in to check out books! In all age groups. I work in an academic library and several times a week we are asked where the books are "just for reading". So somewhere, someone has their facts wrong about people not reading anymore.

But I guess I'm just a cranky old fart who is addicted to Facebook, blogs, uses RSS feeds, and games and has learned that not everything belongs in a library.

Anonymous said...

We had a library director who loved cooking. Did she teach cooking classes at the library? No. Did she have a bake sale at the library? No. Did she have pots and pans on loan for patrons? No. She bought cookbooks for the library's collection. Now that's why we have a huge cookbook section, while the rest of our nonfiction shelves are practically bare.

Anonymous said...

In library school, my management professor extolled the virtues of a library that loaned lawnmowers to the community. ("They saw a need! They filled it!") I could see him getting on the fashion bandwagon. And the only stumbling block being the health department deciding that clothes lending was non-hygenic.

In some ways, it would make sense to lend cooking pans along with cookbooks, especially if they're specialty things--no sense learning the art of the souffle without the right tools--but they'd be gone in a snap. There are parts of culture that are reasonable for the library to work with.

Anonymous said...

it sounds like the same song I've ever heard from every grumpy, calcified, bullying old fart I've ever had the misfortune to work with.

Yes, because everyone who doesn't go with kewl technology at all costs is an old fart. You know, there are some nextgens who agree with AL. Are they old farts, too?

Here's my theme song, Old Fart at Play by Captain Beefheart (I guess that I love CB also makes me an old fart. yay!):
Pappy with the Khaki sweatband
Bowed goat potbellied barnyard that only he noticed
The old fart was smart
The old gold cloth madonna
Dancin' t' the fiddle 'n saw
He ran down behind the knoll
'n slipped on his wooden fishhead
The mouth worked 'n snapped all the bees
Back t' the bungalow

Momma was flatten'n lard
With her red enamel rollin' pin
When the fishhead broke the window
Rubber eye erect 'n precisely detailed
Airholes from which breath should come
Is now closely fit
With the chatter of the old fart inside

An assortment of observations took place
Momma licked 'er lips like uh cat
Pecked the ground like uh rooster
Pivoted like uh duck
Her stockings down caught dust 'n doughballs
She cracked 'er mouth glaze caught one eyelash
Rubbed 'er hands on 'er gorgeous gingham
Her hand grasped sticky metal intricate latchwork
Open t' the room uh smell cold mixed with bologna
Rubber bands crumpled wax paper bonnets
Fat goose legs 'n special jellies
Ignited by the warmth of the room
The old fart smelled this thru his important breather holes
Cleverly he dialed from within from the outside we observed
That the nose of the wooden mask
Where the holes had just been uh moment ago
Was now smooth amazingly blended camouflaged in
With the very intricate rainbow trout replica

The old fart inside was now breathin' freely
From his perfume bottle atomizer air bulb invention

His excited eyes from within the dark interior glazed;
watered in appreciation of his thoughtful preparation.

Anonymous said...

Some people enjoy the art exhibits that a lot of libraries put on, so we need to get rid of those too, and just have bare walls, or more bookshelves. We must get rid of anything that people might get some pleasure out of, and eventually we'll only have the things that are "good for them." Then and only then will libraries once again fulfil their true purpose.

Tootin' along said...

I don't think anyone would say that libraries can't be enjoyable, even fun, spaces. But there has to be a limit on what/how/why/when/etc. we do. The point is that we can't, and shouldn't, it all. Because the fact is, we're not doing any of it particularly well, are we? Librarians are getting too willing to jump on any bandwagon that comes along without taking a minute to evaluate the worth. And part of the reason we're willing to do this is we have no clear concept of where we are going. It's time the we sit down and figure out what the future is going to look like, what we want it to look like, and how to go there. Libraries and librarians used to be the ones at the forefront of things, but something has changed in the past 20-30 years that has caused us to fall behind. Now we are grabbing at any straw to try to keep ourselves "relevant". Get a grip people!

public librarian said...

Is my library the only library that sees increased book circulation every year? This whole "death of reading" and "books aren't relevant anymore" thing makes no sense to me when I spend a good chunk of my time at the reference desk helping people find books. And my community is one in which most people can afford to buy their own books.

only slightly irritated librarian said...

Libraries are the last places anyone should go to for fashion advice or accouterments. Have you seen how librarians dress?

What good are denim jumpers with wooden buttons and embroidered cat tote bags going to be to anyone?

Anonymous said...

Public librarian said, "Is my library the only library that sees increased book circulation every year? This whole "death of reading" and "books aren't relevant anymore" thing makes no sense to me..."

No, your library isn't the only one, by any means. Reading is up nationally, both in increased circulation at libraries and in the purchase of books from sellers.

But (and this is a big but), groovy new "progressive" librarians are not interested in reading, so much as they are interested in self-promotion, "radical" ideas, and constantly "re-inventing" themselves (much like teens who change their hairstyles every week in an attempt to figure out who they are).

Add to this crop of "progressive" librarians a ton of 50-year-old+ baby-boomer/ex-hippie librarians who cannot face the natural aging process and, well, watch out communities!

AL said...

More books are being published every year. Plenty of books are circulating. Reading, literacy, and education are important values that libraries could promote, but the fear is that libraries will then seem boring.

As for the people who make comments like, "let's just get rid of everything fun!", well, never mind. I'm trying not to make fun of those people, but it's clear they don't get the point of posts like this. The point isn't to get rid of everything "fun" (though I don't know how fun most libraries are or ever will be for people with no interest in the written word or free videos). My point should be clear. Some librarians claim they want to meet all the recreational needs of the users, but they're not doing that now. Circulate cookware. Circulate dress clothes. Why not?

Someone mentioned hygiene, but stores now rent dresses and tuxedos to people for fancy occasions. Why shouldn't the library do that if they purpose is to satisfy everyone's needs?

If you think it's a reductio absurdum, why? Why the focus on video games and not fashion accessories? Why dance parties and not happy hours? Why computers for teen gaming and not rental cars? Or private Internet viewing booths? If you feel uncomfortable with the comparisons, but still support dance parties in the library because they're "fun," then the problem is your own inconsistency.

Anonymous said...

Libraries are the last places anyone should go to for fashion advice or accouterments. Have you seen how librarians dress?

That's why they should hire ME to select only the finest from Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Ferragamo!

I don't think Gucci makes holiday theme sweater. ;) High fashion selection is frump-proof.

What good are denim jumpers with wooden buttons and embroidered cat tote bags going to be to anyone?

Fashion librarians will crusade against all that is frumpy. Oh my, I feel a manifesto coming on!

Tootin' along said...

Okay...I'm going to say something that's going to get all those "trendy" librarians in a snit. But I think they are at the root of the problem with our profession being taken seriously and with respect. I'm not saying that we should be old, stodgy shushers, but if you want to throw dance parties and promote video games, go work at Chuckee Cheese. The rest of us have real work to do which interestingly enough seems to satisfy most of our users.

If you can't get people into them library without bribing them with food, games, dance parties,wet t-shirts contests, beer, and lottery tickets, your community might be facing a much larger problem.

While a library can be the hub of a community, what type of hub do you want to be. Bars and the local Walmart can be considered hubs as well, but I certainly don't want to even remotely be compared to those places!

AL said...

"Libraries are the last places anyone should go to for fashion advice or accouterments. Have you seen how librarians dress?

That's why they should hire ME to select only the finest from Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Ferragamo!"

I'm sure big retailers like Macy's and Lord and Taylor and the like could set up approval plans, like we now have for books. We don't expect librarians to have actually read any books they buy, especially those hard serious books, so it doesn't have to be any different with fashion.

Anonymous said...

The AL and her Minions are remarkably prescient, as always. This just arrived in my email. Can loaning cooking utensils be far behind?

"The ___ Library presents ___a, the ___ Cook, to give Holiday cooking tips and suggestions, including festive and healthy cranberries. ___ demonstrates her nutrition-conscious menus live in the Library.

___ is a holistic health counselor and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in Manhattan. As The ___ Cook, she specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes for private clients or groups, nutrition coaching and wellness guidance. ___ is also an ACE certified personal trainer and a passionate organic gardener.

Free. Space is limited, register now, online, or by calling the Library."

Anonymous said...

You know what would be really cool? Let's just kick the teens and children out of the library altogether. And hey, why stop there? Let's close the libraries at five to make sure the working class can't come to libraries. That's what libraries wanted in the 1900s...if we want to go back in time to a more peaceful (non gaming) time then I say go for it! Who needs patrons anyway! I'm sure the city would love to pay us to keep open empty buildings!

Fed up said...

Good lord. Is it all or nothing with you people?! And if the only thing of value that you offer at your library is Dance Dance Revolution, then how are you going to justify city money for books, computers, databases, etc. which are what libraries are about. Seriously, you might as well close the libraries down if that is all you think we have to offer. And forget getting an MLS. That's a waste of money. Since people don't need libraries for things like books and reference and databases, then I guess you are right. Shut 'em down.

Yes, I might as well sound as ridiculous as the gamers and dancers since according to them it's all or nothing.

Anonymous said...

I know a library that lends fishing poles and clam rakes, but that doesn't bother me- it's on an island.

What bothers me is that as a teen librarian, it seems to be hoped and assumed by others here that I will provide DDR programs for the teens, like my predecessor did.

It wasn't in the job description, and I wouldn't do it in a million years. So there.

AL said...

"You know what would be really cool? Let's just kick the teens and children out of the library altogether. And hey, why stop there? Let's close the libraries at five to make sure the working class can't come to libraries. That's what libraries wanted in the 1900s...if we want to go back in time to a more peaceful (non gaming) time then I say go for it! Who needs patrons anyway! I'm sure the city would love to pay us to keep open empty buildings!"

I'm not sure how to respond to this other than to say that perhaps playing video games has harmed your interpretive skills. If there's anything at all in this ridiculous comment that has any bearing on my post, will you please explain it to me? Since I've said absolutely nothing about getting rid of teens or the working class (where the hell did that come from?), I just don't see the relevance.

Anonymous said...

"If there's anything at all in this ridiculous comment that has any bearing on my post, will you please explain it to me? Since I've said absolutely nothing about getting rid of teens or the working class (where the hell did that come from?), I just don't see the relevance."

I think the point is that it's the teens and the working class that are the trouble-makers. Get rid of them and you get rid of 90% of the problems that were enumerated in this and the last two or three AL postings.

Anonymous said...

AL, what kind of librarian are you? You post all this stuff about games in the public library, and I'm wondering if you actually work at a public library? Not that you can't have an opinion on the matter if you don't. Just curious.

Anonymous said...

AL, how am I being extreme by saying let's just ban teens? You're the one who put out the idea of selling guns?!

Yeah, you're not talking about getting rid of teens...you just want to not do anything for them in hopes that they simply won't visit the library.

j- said...

*Remember those parents in the 50s who used to whine and bitch that that all that rock 'n' roll sounded like cats fighting in a garbage can? And Elvis' hips were going to cause spontaneous pregnancy and why don't we just let them have sex RIGHT ON the Ed Sullivan Show for God's Sake. *

And those parents were right, although woefully outnumbered by the kinds of parents who didn't give a rat's arse.

Just look where we are as a society today and try to think back to where the slope became really slippery.

*You know what would be really cool? Let's just kick the teens and children out of the library altogether. And hey, why stop there? Let's close the libraries at five to make sure the working class can't come to libraries. That's what libraries wanted in the 1900s...if *

I once worked at a public library that, in its early days, was male-only, allowed beans as payment for late fees and had a "smoking room".

That's the kind of library we should have, right there.

*I think the point is that it's the teens and the working class that are the trouble-makers. *

Uh, no, the NON-working class causes most of the problems at the library.

AL said...

"eah, you're not talking about getting rid of teens...you just want to not do anything for them in hopes that they simply won't visit the library."

So unless you hold dance parties for teens, you're not doing anything for them? Aren't there other people who can hold dance parties for teens? Aren't there more important things librarians can do for teens? Things that will benefit them more than dance parties?

As for what kind of librarian I am, I work in a big university library, which has it's own problems, I suppose. Generally I don't like to talk about my own work, though I've mentioned librarian publishing and tenure occasionally. Somewhere in the vast archives of this blog I have a post called "librarian and citizen" or something like that where I write about why I write about public libraries.

Anonymous said...

I think the point is that it's the teens and the working class that are the trouble-makers. Get rid of them and you get rid of 90% of the problems that were enumerated in this and the last two or three AL postings.

I wouldn't go so far as a complete ban, but those are the two groups that make most of the problems. Either they're surfing porn, hanging out for nothing else to do, or just stirring up trouble.

At the academic library I worked at I know the local teens would come by on the night shift and have parties in the study rooms where they toss drinks/candy all over everything. They would also try to steal all the books on the occult/witchcraft, and on a few occasions get into confrontations with legitimate patrons.

The working class would at the very least be surfing porn, when they're not in the adult chat rooms or gambling/e-mailing online.

However, I don't want to to draw the curtain completely on humanity, there are still teens who do want to study, and working class people who really do need to look things up.

The solution I see (the parts of which have already been discussed here) is threefold:

First, quit trying to be a do everything badly institution, but instead focus on the books/databases that are libraries.

Second, make Internet sites available on a "white list," block everything else. If they need to look up something that turns out to be blocked, they can ask, and that should discourage the gamers/porn surfers.

Third, make a library card not a privilege but a membership. Just like at a rec center there are rules that have to be followed and if you don't follow the rules then good bye.

However, as with the topics of the past few days, librarians want to be all things to all people and --shock--- we can't possibly keep someone out of the library, can we? That would infringe on their sanctified and undeniable right for access to information, and to infringe on that in the slightest puts on the slippery slope to a grey concrete Orwellian dictatorship. Yeah, right.

Stacey said...

As someone who lives in a small NYC apartment and loves to cook, I am *ALL FOR* loaning out cookware! Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Hi Al

I agree with your other poster who suggested that we would need the fashion designer shoes and purses more than the library clients. Haven't you been to a library conference recently and realized what a bunch of dags we all are. the words that spring to my mind are dowdy and frumpish

A fashion disaster

Dances With Books said...

Hmm, so let's lend clothes? Actually, that would not surprise me. Given that libraries already claim to be good places for job searching and so on, why not take it the step further and lend them the clothes for the interviews as well? Or better yet, have some clothes in stock for those patrons who not only are fashion challenged but simply need a new wardrobe. And since we do not want them to just put on clean clothes when they themselves are filthy, let's offer some showers as well. We can even offer soap, towels, etc. to facilitate, since after all, the idea is to "meet patrons' needs." Our new job description will include librarians standing in the showers to hand out towels and so on.

As for the power tools and so on, do we also stock up on First Aid kits? You know some of those patrons will inevitably hammer a finger or worse, hack part of one off with those power tools. Maybe we can set up a medical clinic for such cases.

My favorite is the idea of checking out firearms. I can see it now: "Yea, I'll take two TEC-9's, a couple of grenades, oh, and do you have the new issue of Harper's in yet?"

As for loaning vaginas as a commenter suggested, hey, why not hire some of those prostitutes (put them on the library's payroll), and you can literally loan their vaginas (along with the rest) out. Again, I can see it now, some lonely guy (or gal who digs that, hey, let's not discriminate), "excuse me, I would like to borrow a vagina." Librarian hands them a key to one of the rooms, the employee leads him there, you get the idea.We could lend. . .well, let's just say something for the ladies and leave it at that.

This could go on and on, but honestly, where does it stop? When did the institution with the mission to educate the people to safeguard democracy become the local mall surrogate?

Anonymous said...

When did the institution with the mission to educate the people to safeguard democracy become the local mall surrogate?

I wonder if that has to do with the emergence of the mall as community center in the mid-80's and libraries are just responding to that.

Anonymous said...

Dances with Books may have suggested at least a pragmatic line limiting what Libraries might reasonably loan. If a patron saws off a finger using a loaned power saw, is the Library liable? If a patron, inexperienced in walking in high heels, falls and breaks an ankle, is there liability? If a patron picks up lice from a previously loaned article of clothing? If a patron gets food poisoning from an imperfectly cleaned cooking utensil?
For that matter, if a teen falls and sustains an injury while dancing, is there a liability issue?

Anonymous said...

Anon @8:43 I completely agree with you. You are describing a special library, which only holds information relevant to the corporation, it's understood that no one will be watching porn and you are there to learn. Public libraries should be the same way.

Anonymous said...

My public library branch loans tools and the program has increased the circulation of those precious books you all go on and on about. Books on home repair and plumbing and cabinet-making. Go figure. A smart librarian meeting the needs of an extremely poor clientele. A DIY clientele who can't afford to hire someone, yet can't afford well-made tools. Oh yeah, and some of the patrons are illegal. Take that and run with it!

Brent said...

Not sure..., how do you catalog a a tablesaw?

AL said...

"My public library branch loans tools and the program has increased the circulation of those precious books you all go on and on about. Books on home repair and plumbing and cabinet-making. Go figure. A smart librarian meeting the needs of an extremely poor clientele. A DIY clientele who can't afford to hire someone, yet can't afford well-made tools. Oh yeah, and some of the patrons are illegal. Take that and run with it!"

Run with it, indeed. Good for your library loaning out tools. There's a better argument for libraries loaning out cookware and tools than hosting dance parties. Funny thing is, I haven't seen anyone go on about any "precious books." I have noticed that this post has brought forth an unusual number of commenters who can't read very well. Somehow if one argues that dance parties aren't appropriate uses of libraries, then one wants only books in libraries. It's a strange assumption given that there's no evidence of that in my posts. It seems to me that there are some dance revolutionary librarians who are a wee bit sensitive about their silly professional lives and want to make out all critics to be "calcified bullies."

Anonymous said...

"'When did the institution with the mission to educate the people to safeguard democracy become the local mall surrogate?'

I wonder if that has to do with the emergence of the mall as community center in the mid-80's and libraries are just responding to that."

The mall is not a "community center." The mall is a privately owned commercial establishment. If you don't believe me, just try wearing an old "Fuck the Draft" t-shirt the next time you go there.

The public library is one of the last visible remnants of a time when there was an agreed upon notion of the "common good." The other remnant is the public school. Both are under attack and fighting for their lives. They can either make compromises today in order to survive, or they can capitulate to the forces that want to privatize everything, including water and air, and disappear forever. (Oh. Wait. The water has already been privatized.) Which would you choose?

AL said...

If libraries and public schools don't serve the common good in some way, then they don't have a reason to exist. If they compromise themselves to stay open regardless of whether they actually serve the common good any longer, then I don't care if they close. I'd rather have libraries on a mission to serve the common good, and instead I see them on a mission to entertain everyone and serve lots of irrelevant needs badly so they don't get closed. I don't see where the common good is served by hosting dance parties in the library.

Anonymous said...

The mall is not a "community center."

In many cities and towns in the Southeast and Midwest it is.

I don't see where the common good is served by hosting dance parties in the library.

Because it is a great form of exercise and these programs will single-handedly conquer the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our youth!

Anonymous said...

Exactly AL. The public libraries should, mostly, close, as the mission they were designed for is irrelevant to most modern communities. The schools are a separate issue, and sure do have problems–the teachers are just a notch above librarians on the intellectual continuum--but still can show a demonstrable need to the community. Libraries try to do the same with their ridiculous antics, and look more ridiculous with each antic.

Anonymous said...

"I don't see where the common good is served by hosting dance parties in the library."

It doesn't. That's one of the compromises.

A 1950s style library of nothing but books and databases cannot survive in today's environment. The choice is either to keep the doors open, or to close. Keeping the doors open means that traditional library users--and there are a few left--still have a place to go. Close the doors, and no one gets anything.

Anonymous said...

"'The mall is not a "community center."'

In many cities and towns in the Southeast and Midwest it is. "

No, it's not. That's an illusion that the mall owners try to cultivate. It is a privately owned property. Try exercising a little free speech the next time you go there.

Beth Saxton said...

It's funny I've found this as I raised some similar questions in my own blog today at http://www.teensmatter.net. I think it is a matter of balance and moderation.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, all public libraries should be shut down because everyone who uses one—these days—is stupid, nay, worthless perverts, skanky bums, drooling schizophrenics, and space cadet gamers. I remember back in the good ole days when everyone was a autodidact scholar who memorized Shakespeare line by line and critically studied the nuances of Adam Smith (gosh, we could hardly keep a copy of Wealth of Nations on the shelves back then), when the wholesome citizenry made sure they read all the classics to enable their participation in the fine all-American tradition of liberal studies that everyone pursued for its own sake. God, I sure do miss those days.

--Soren Faust

j- said...

*Hmm, so let's lend clothes? Actually, that would not surprise me. Given that libraries already claim to be good places for job searching and so on, why not take it the step further and lend them the clothes for the interviews as well? *

Nothing will land you a job faster than a poorly-tailored suit.

*As for the power tools and so on, do we also stock up on First Aid kits? You know some of those patrons will inevitably hammer a finger or worse, hack part of one off with those power tools. Maybe we can set up a medical clinic for such cases.*

And keep a lawyer on retainer for the inevitable "I drilled several holes in my skull due to the library's faulty equipment" lawsuits.

*Oh yeah, and some of the patrons are illegal. Take that and run with it!*

Who's handing out library cards without a government-issued photo ID?

*A 1950s style library of nothing but books and databases*

They had databases in libraries in 1950?

Anonymous said...

"If libraries and public schools don't serve the common good in some way, then they don't have a reason to exist. If they compromise themselves to stay open regardless of whether they actually serve the common good any longer, then I don't care if they close."

Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that you had the power to close all the public libraries that don't live up to your standards. What would it take for you to keep one open? If I found 1000 people who use that library in traditional, acceptable ways--for non-fiction, the classics, and periodicals--would you keep it open?

Would you keep it open for 500?

Would you keep it open for 100?

Where's the cutoff?

Anonymous said...

All this sputtering and outrage over the close the public library issue is so amusing, and so typical of librarians. I can see all the Jean Teasdales earnestly typing away in support of this beloved public institution.

Well, the reality is, public libraries cost money, which comes from the tax payers. In my state of NJ, the tax payers are already overburdened, I know as I am one of them.

So sure, devise a formula determining when the number of citizens served by the library will drop to a level where it’s not viable to fund it, the library. You could use several indices, number of active library cards held vs. the town population, the circ per capita, etc. Figure out at what point the citizenry would be better served with a tax rebate rather than a library, which they could spend on whatever they like, books if they choose, but I think that choice unlikely.

Another index to watch, the sputtering outrage vs. relevance graph. Generally the higher the first, the lower the second.

Anonymous said...

"So sure, devise a formula determining when the number of citizens served by the library will drop to a level where it’s not viable to fund it, the library. You could use several indices, number of active library cards held vs. the town population, the circ per capita, etc. Figure out at what point the citizenry would be better served with a tax rebate rather than a library, which they could spend on whatever they like, books if they choose, but I think that choice unlikely."

Isn't that precisely what happens every time the town approves the library budget? Hence, some libraries in Oregon will close. Most libraries in the more enlightened Northeast will continue to stay open.

Anonymous said...

In my experience as an NJ library director, the mayor and council determine the library budget based on the number of low functioning relatives they need to find jobs for.

Anonymous said...

Last time I drove I-78 between Philly and Harrisburg there was a billboard advertising a "Gun Library". In this case, I take it that it is aimed more at a private collector, than advertising a lending institution. Still, it gets the idea out there in the public mind.

Makes me wonder, though, whether those collectors have a "GunThing.Com" website for cataloguing their private gun library collections?

---Kurt

Kristen said...

"Who's handing out library cards without a government-issued photo ID?"

We don't ask for any identification when issuing cards.

Kevin Musgrove said...

We don't loan vaginas to the sexually-frustrated because most of the available c**ts are employed as library managers.

Kevin Musgrove said...

And 99% of problems in public libraries are created by people with library qualifications.

Anonymous said...

"In my experience as an NJ library director, the mayor and council determine the library budget based on the number of low functioning relatives they need to find jobs for."

Your town has far worse problems than whether to have DDR nights.

Anonymous said...

"In my experience as an NJ library director, the mayor and council determine the library budget based on the number of low functioning relatives they need to find jobs for."

And which is your relative?

Gilbert Bland said...

AL does not seem tired, crabby, terrified and sanctimonious to me. She does sound crabby which is a fairly sane reaction to any job that involves service to the booboisie, washed or unwashed.
It doesn't take shapely calves to know that John Q. Teenager, porn monkeys, public miscreants and old school perverts should not determine the entire content or future of libraries. Librarians are supposed to know better since we have all studied up to the rigorous demands of the MSLS. (there is some terrified sanctimony for you.) I may be that grumpy, calcified, old fart but younguns have never been bullied on my reference desks. After much study of the animal I have to agree with Mencken when he described them as taking a kind of voluptuous delight in the shabby and preposterous, a perverted aestheticism like that of a latter-day movie or radio fan, a wild will to roll in and snuffle balderdash as a cat rolls in and snuffles catnip.
Now that is an idea I could endorse: the loaning out of kittens. Far more portable than vaginas and certainly more fun for kids than Jimmy Choo 4 inchers.

Bunny Watson said...

I must say that it would be a sad day if public libraries (as I remember them) closed. The public library was the joy of my youth for no other reason that they let me go in alone at the age of 12 and 13 and check out book after book. I read more worthwhile literature in my teenage years thanks to the public library than I have in the decade since in college, graduate school and my professional life. That said, if the public library must resort to gimmicks to draw kids in, I think that sad day is drawing nigh.

I've started to see this kind of trend in academic libraries as well. Public service librarians suggesting dance parties as open houses for freshman orientation (so they can learn the library isn't a "scary" place), coffee bars, etc. Whether the information is in a book or in an online database, the library can maintain its identity as a place where information, or God forbid, knowledge, is offered to its patrons. Let the library be about knowledge, let the community center be about entertainment.

Anonymous said...

I've started to see this kind of trend in academic libraries as well. Public service librarians suggesting dance parties as open houses for freshman orientation (so they can learn the library isn't a "scary" place), coffee bars, etc.

I don't see why academic libraries feel the need to compete with campus social organizations and/or local bars, etc.

Well, the reality is, public libraries cost money, which comes from the tax payers. In my state of NJ, the tax payers are already overburdened, I know as I am one of them.

I feel your pain. I grew up in another high tax state in the Northeast. On the other hand, NJ enjoys a better educated populace than many low tax states. Test scores in NJ are higher, etc. I wonder if library membership would work out better in states like NJ.

That's an illusion that the mall owners try to cultivate. It is a privately owned property. Try exercising a little free speech the next time you go there.

Try exercising free speech at some public buildings in the deep South! In any case, that's irrelevant. We have a consumer culture and people spend an inordinate time at malls. Malls have supplanted traditional community centers in many parts of the us. Most Americans cite shopping as one of their hobbies. It is what it is and it sucks. (I suspect you live on the West Coast--lucky duck!)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it's so much *needed*--the dance parties and such--as it is the current trend coming out of library schools, which is appealing because it breaks up the doldrums for everyone. I'm not sure why people who are attracted to the "Always keep it in flux!" philosophy are apparently also attracted to library work, but it's so. "Stir it up! Put something new in the mix!"

And I should point out that, despite the objections on this thread, all they ever hear is how much people want them to do these things. They get so little feedback from people who don't want it that it can be dismissed as a handful of curmudgeons. I suspect this is because when they do their bits of research, asking people what they'd like in libraries, no one thinks to actually say "Books," because they assume that's a given, so the information comes back as, "No one's really concerned about books, they want all of these other things instead."

j- said...

*Kristen said...
"Who's handing out library cards without a government-issued photo ID?"

We don't ask for any identification when issuing cards.*

Nice. So when someone checks out $700 dollars worth of DVDs and XBox games then never returns them how do you bill them?

Anonymous said...

You know what would be really cool? Let's just kick the teens and children out of the library altogether. And hey, why stop there? Let's close the libraries at five to make sure the working class can't come to libraries. That's what libraries wanted in the 1900s...if we want to go back in time to a more peaceful (non gaming) time then I say go for it! Who needs patrons anyway! I'm sure the city would love to pay us to keep open empty buildings!

I love how the alleged "progressives" try to dress up their faddishnes as if it is class consciousness. A library has a pretty narrow mission and that mission was to actually give folks the tools they need to better themselves, not distract themselves. I wonder if the folks at the DMV or the Health Department have these debates about ridiculously expanding their missions to make those institutions more fun and to put asses in the seats.

This isn't snobbery - it is merely situational elitism. Libraries have a given mission and I would argue a liberal mission when they are rigorous. And, as a lifelong liberal and democrat, if seems the modern left is more interested in identity than equalling opportunity - let's not get rid of poverty, just celebrate the diversity the poor offer - then we can feel good about ourselves without actually doing anything. Good for us without really being good for them. Work with poor kids sometime and you'll see more entertainment opportunities is the last thing they need.

Anonymous said...

I see the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg Co. is looking to hire a "Director of Library Experiences"

http://tinyurl.com/2paypa

So who gets to actually run the library if this poor b*stard is directing people's "experiences"?

Kevin Musgrove said...

"Directing library experiences" sounds like an awful euphemism for some of our darker personnel and staff development practices.

In our bleak, Orwellian present it's only a matter of time before we either get one of these or a "Manager of That Last Lingering Sense of Hope."

Anonymous said...

Cookware. Interesting, because two years ago on a tour of several rural libraries, I discovered that they lend out decorative cake pans. When I mentioned this to my mother, she said, "oh yes, I think our library does this too."

Anonymous said...

Since when did the public library become the local boys' or girls' club? Growing up in the 70's & 80's, we went to the library to find books and and do research. No one I knew would go to their local library branch to hang out and socialize. Guess what? The kids of today are doing the same thing! They come into the library, want to have the information handed to them on a silver platter and go home. Or better yet, they send their parents in to do the work for them. (I love asking those follow up questions which mummy just can't answer because her sweetums didn't give her the full scope of the assignment)

It's only the nutty children's and YA librarians who seem to feel that we have to be everything to everyone (throw in a few politicians who view libraries as dumping grounds for children when their school is having the 100th teacher institute day for the semester).

If the kiddies want to play DDR, let them go to an arcade. Otherwise they can reserve their time on the Internet and play some online games while sitting next to the smelly homeless guy viewing hardcore pornography. Maybe they can even make a connection through their MySpace ad.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, you're not talking about getting rid of teens...you just want to not do anything for them in hopes that they simply won't visit the library."

I know quite a few teens who actually like reading and are annoyed at the noisy kids who spend all their time playing runescape and make it hard to concentrate. I also know teens who hate DDR (Daughters of the Dance Revolution?). Why do we stereotype teens?