Libraries used to be simpler

Library CardPhil: According to my calendar, it’s time to renew my Library books. Specifically, it’s time to renew the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook that I’m supposed to be looking for publishing agents addresses in.

I am looking at the date because it was 2 days ago so I am now clocking up fines for not getting the books back on time. I am a bad man.

Now, in theory I can renew my books online. I know this because in a past life I was lightly involved in making this happen.  Now I’ve moved on, I can’t remember my PIN number so that’s another days worth of fines to clock up.

When I was a kid, libraries were a lot simpler. They had little card wallets with your name on them. When a book was borrowed, a ticket from inside would be slipped into the wallet to be retrieved when it was returned. Then new tickets with bar codes on were issued and books were scanned in and out. Both of these systems involved writing inside the book the return date.

Now we don’t get this. By the library entrance there are machines you put the books and your card in to. Some clever jiggery-pokery later and the details are recorded on your records and if you want to know the return dates other than on screen, it can print you a receipt.

All this is good for librarians. They used to hate the impression that most people had of them stamping books in and out. The profession is much more about helping the visitor find the right book or the right bit of information. They leapt on the Internet when it appeared, my first serious on-line experience was on the sole library PC, and most have a selection of publicly available computers along with staff to help you use them.

Elseshwere, there are events to get you reading. The entrance is home to regularly changing displays encouraging reader to try different books to the ones they normally look at. I’ve picked up a couple from here before so this works. Events for kids with story reading are regular features, especially during holiday times. I suspect I’d have loved these when I was a nipper. My Mum would have appreciated the chance to have someone else read to me too.

Anyway, another days of fines to come but that’s my fault. I think I’d rather pay them than explain to Ms Nolan quite why I still need the Yearbook. I’ll be done by next month. Honest!

1 Comment

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One response to “Libraries used to be simpler

  1. Have lots of memories of going to the small local library on my bike in Dagenham and often getting taken by my mum to the big one in Ilford on a Saturday where you could take out big art and photography books . Now, when we are back in the UK, we take the grandchildren (three lively girls aged 3, 9 and 11)and inflict them on the staff in their local library. It’s great to see their enthusiasm for the books-reading at bedtime is part of their day and I try not to excite them too much with actions and silly voices!

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