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!