Monday, August 16, 2010

The Welfare System Called Your Local Public Library

As our nation progresses even deeper into a socialist society where we depend on our government to take care of us, this sign I found shouldn't have surprised me. After all, you can now go to your local library to surf the web, rent movies, rent CD's, attend meetings, read the latest Hollywood gossip magazine and evidently, borrow some fishing gear. Gone are the days when people actually go to the library to read books. Yet my jaw almost hit the book in my hand when I saw the above sign.

At the Macomb library where this sign was found, the tiny room with three computers was packed with people surfing the web or waiting in line while I went over to the card catalog that was relegated to a corner of the room with a thick layer of dust on top of it. Upstairs where the books were, the place was deserted and I had the entire top two floors to myself during my stay. The only people I saw were those surfing the internet or checking out the videos when I went to the bottom floor to use the card catalog.

My own local library, though it doesn't loan out fishing equipment yet as far as I know, has emptied itself of books and now gives well over three-fourths of the space for movies, computers, displays, daycare center and Hollywood gossip magazines. There is perhaps only three rows of actual books and of those, 80% are fictional romance or westerns. It has completely turned itself into a welfare outlet for the poor who can't afford to surf the internet at home, rent a movie at the local video outlet that is almost completely dead, subscribe to a magazine or newspaper most of which are also dying, look after their children while they are surfing the internet or display the wares of the local starving artists. Instead, they rely on those of us who pay the lions share of taxes to support their habits which evidently don't include reading books. Perhaps when the libraries loan out Kindles they will once again take up reading if only trashy romance novels. I'm not going to hold my breath.


R. Sherman said...

Another piece of evidence in the increasing "dumbing down" of America. Heaven forbid, we should know how to use a card catalog these days.


Murf said...

Trashy novels would be lacking a lot on Kindles. You almost need the previous readers highlighting and notes. :-)

Quite a timely topic. I'm just about to get out of my jammies and head to the library as I enjoy Day 1 of vacation and ours is very similar (minus the fishing gear) to yours. I normally have the aisles of books to myself although the fact that my library doesn't carry a copy of Anne Frank's diary scares me a bit.

Bone said...

I think the library's main problem has always been that ten-cents-a-day late fee. They can't possibly be making any money off of that. Especially now as it sounds like business is slow.

Coincidentally, I have been wanting to get back into fishing. I used to fish a bit back in high school but probably haven't been since. Although I think I'll just buy a cheap rod instead of renting :)

sage said...

Fishing gear is over the top--a lot of our library's new books are electronic and you can download them on your Nook (I'm not sure if Kindle's work, but they probably do too). When you're 2 weeks are up, they disappear from your kindle.

Our libraries have really cut back--I have primarily used it for interlibrary loan (which was never very good--I was spoiled living in a university town in Utah), so I now have to go to the big city for decent ILL connections.

Vince said...

They have had a problem since the price of general books came down for those that self-studied. Which was the primary reason Carnegie put his money into the thing. And the price of decent academic works went through the roof. These days the reality is that handing a Kindle or whichever of them to the un or under employed would be vastly cheaper to paying for the existence of libraries. Always supposing that these people have had some level of reasonable education. Never something that can be a given.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - At my local library, you don't even need a card catalog. It takes longer to search for a title that isn't there than to just scan every single book they have.

Murf - Perhaps the Kindle will come with a highlighting option in the future and you can "rent" a book from someone who has highlighted it.

Bone - Our local library got into a little tiff with the city council when they didn't want to cut their budget like everyone else. I think they get almost a million dollars of tax monies a year to run it.

Sage - I rarely can get through a book in two weeks these days so I've pretty much given up on the library. I only go to one mostly for research and after I have checked to see they actually have the book in question.

Vince - I hope you are wrong but I suspect you aren't.

Vince said...

$1m, what sort of place are we speaking about here. Is the city billing them for the building with some sort of accountancy hoodoo.
But what might be an interesting exercise would be a look at the budget and more importantly the budgetary breakdown.

Eutychus2 said...

Ed..... best take a picture of that 'card catalog,' then when Little Annie gets in middle school she could take it to class for 'show and tell.' least we still have Barnes & Nobles! although I guess they are trying to sell out also. I always get nervous when a place like B/N sell because the future owners may be taking them the same route as the libraries?!

Murf said...

U-M's library just had a big sale of their card catalogs as they are now all online. There was a line of people out the door waiting to buy them. Although the draw wasn't the drawers themselves but the cards. I don't get that.

Murf said...

A link for ya:

Frank D. Myers said...

I don't have a problem with public-access computers --- except when they've been used as an excuse to displace books. Fishing gear's a little much

Our beautiful public library here has a couple of oddities. It's very large, light and spacious, primarily because it contains so few books.

An extremely large and well-appointed public meeting room is rarely used by the public (except when the library is holding its annual deaccessioning/bring-all-you-old-books-in book sale) because of the iron-clad rule that it's closed when the library is (including most evenings when people who work might be expected to use it).

A somewhat smaller but more lavishly appointed board meeting room is across the hall. It's worthy of a major corporation. Hardly ever used, except by the board.

All of the books now in the library would fit on shelves around the bare walls of these pleasant vacant rooms.

So my conclusion is that the library really has no commitment to books or creative reading and obviously no interest in assembling a permanent collection of any sort or depth. That means I really don't care when the city or county trims its operating budget.

PhilippinesPhil said...

You'd hate it if you went to a military base and saw all the freebies and cheapies available to the troops. For practically peanuts MWR rents out just about anything you can imagine for the outdoors, from pop up campers to hiking boots to scuba gear. (And yes, even fishing gear, although its not free). The base library is always full of people reading EVERYTHING, including books. If they didn't have what you wanted they'd put you on the list and call when it was available. Most bases have two or three pools, a golf course, tons of tennis courts and ball fields and a gymnasium or two. Its like living on the grounds of country club, only better. No wonder I stayed in for almost thirty. No wonder McChrystal voted for Obama; the general has lived under a semisocialist system since he was a teenager at West Point.

TC said...

I don't personally have a problem with the library having computers for use. They're important tools that most kids use to do homework these days. Do Libraries even carry current copies of Encyclopedias anymore? Because if not, then they have to offer the Internet.

Also, while I haven't used it to rent movies because I just don't watch movies, I don't have a problem with them renting those either. I'd rather rent a movie for free (should I ever decide to watch one) than spend $4 on it. That $4 can go towards my travel budget instead.

However, at this given moment, there are six library books in this very room with me.

I do think fishing equipment has gone too far.