Saturday, May 12, 2007

Library Dilemna/Paying for convenience

Two good posts about convenience and worth of the public library system.

On BlogHer, a blogger talks about the wonders of the public library and the sadness of leaving a great library system to a lesser system. Her dilemma is that in order to maintain that great library service, she has to pay $119 to retain her membership. The cost of five books she estimates. Most of the people who have commented say it is more than worth it and I would agree.

Library Dilemma
One of the big honking cons of moving is that Toronto has what I feel must be one of the best public library systems in North America. The Toronto Public Library has 99 branches (including mine, just two blocks away), over 11 million items and I can have something like 50 items on request at one time.
One hundred nineteen dollars. Per year. Don't get me wrong. I believe in giving libraries money. I donate to my local library, both money and books, on a regular basis. But $119 for a membership feels like a kick in the gut. When I saw that online my response was "ouch!"

I can't imagine my life without a library. So not having a library account doesn't seem right to me. True, I could probably not get a single book from the library and the unread books in my bookshelves would keep me busy for a couple of months. And there are some great second-hand bookstores. And I will be living close to two large chain bookstores. As much as $119 hurts, reading even 5 books from the library would cover the cost of the membership. But the cost still seems a bit extreme.

So what do you think? Is $119 for a library membership too much? Do you pay for your library membership? What would your limit be?


I know many library systems must only provide services to their immediate taxing district. That can create a great disparity in services with the Library A versus Library B dilemma in her post. Most people would be more than happy to dish out the money, if they can afford. Which leads to the next post from Library Revolution.

Here's to Convenience

She’s right - people (including me!) are ready to pay for convenience, and where libraries and information are concerned, part of that payment is in sacrificing some of the quality content. the fact that the library is free and that it can provide users with high quality information services doesn’t matter if it’s not convenient. That means easy to access, use, and interpret.

It's interesting to see the dynamic. In some cases, a patron can pay for a membership at an A plus library, and get better selection, increased availability of hours, and better services. In many cases, there is no choice and one must go to the local library that may not be progressive or proactive in meeting its patrons' needs. In my library, we offer services to the entire county for free (which covers 5,374 square miles and serves over 24 communities with over 220,000 residents) through a consortium. So even though we are the biggest community in the county, people from the smallest communities can come to us and get the full range of services. This gives the greatest amount of choice and would create less of dilemma for dedicated library users.

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