I miss the library

Posted by September Blue Tuesday, 25 August 2009

I miss my library, where I used to work. I don't necessarily miss working there - it was a good job, but not an incredibly well-paid good job, and it had its fair share of dust and boredom and people who refused to pay their fines because This Is Ridiculous* - but I miss the place.

The university I work for now does have a library. It's a very good library, in terms of numbers of books. But I have gripes in terms of other things. Gripes, I tell you.

Firstly: Libraries of the world, you can have as many loan periods as you like, but only if you have that many loan types to go along with them. The answer to 'How long can I get this book out for if the catalogue says it's a Such-and-such Loan?' should not be 'Well... either 24 hours, or two weeks, or sometimes a month. Or it might be different. It depends on the individual book, really.' Library staff of the world will not thank you for anything that encourages people to haggle at the circulation desk, belieeeeeeeve me.

Secondly: While I appreciate all libraries everywhere are pushed for space, it makes it a bit easier to find stuff if there's some kind of consistency in where you put it. I mean, it's fine to have the journals for one subject right next to the books in that subject area, or to have lots of different subject journals pooled together in one central journal area, or even to have them in some kind of offsite storage, if that's needed. But you probably shouldn't have all three systems going at once.

Thirdly: Nobody I have grumbled about this too believes me, but honestly, I speak the truth: letting people renew overdue books online is not only possible, but actually makes sense. You can tell the system to do this and just add the fine to the user's record! You can! And then you can reserve the sudden avalanche of books through Returns and seriously pissed-off users for people who are holding onto books that someone else wants. Also, it's possible to change the records for all graduating students such that they can't take books out until beyond the date they graduate, and having a system that relies upon 'we can't actually enforce this in any meaningful way, but please bring the books back?' is a bit silly.

Fourthly: The carpets are grimy.

What it does have going for it, though, is that none of the heavy four-foot-long light fittings have fallen out of the ceiling and crashed to earth in a dramatic way, which happened at my last library, as I found out about when I went in for my shift to find the areas under 20% of the light fittings cordoned off on safety grounds and most of the staff in a huge huddle by the circulation desk talking in excited tones about the cowboy builders who'd done a shoddy job of all this back in the 70s (people could have died!, or so I am reliably informed). 'Also,' said my boss, 'remember that no student is allowed in any of the cordoned-off areas at all.'
'They'll be furious if they can't get the books,' I said after she'd gone. Foolishly. Naively.
There was an awkward silence. People looked at me sympathetically.
'Oh, they can get their books,' said my fellow library minion Dr K. 'They just can't get the books themselves.'
'So, wait, does that mean...'
'Our red shirts and tricorders are in the stationery cupboard.'
We could have died.
Or so I am reliably informed.

*This was the most common objection to fines, and I never got it. So... you accept that you took the book out, that you knew what date you should have brought it back, that you didn't bring it back on that date, and you're disputing the 20p fine because you, and I quote, 'can't believe this'? Okay, then.

1 Responses to I miss the library

  1. The not being able to renew overdue books online was at the heart of my 'this is ridiculous' complaints. I mean you accidentally forget to renew one day, log on the next day and no renewal, you have to bring the book physically back to the library- and in the meantime, your fine adds up. The best of it was, there is no justification for it. It was cleary a con to rip off us students. And, I am still pissed about this despite having a real job...