Saturday, May 7, 2011

Free Libraries: A Thing of the Past?



I was reading my local newspaper through its website. I don’t think I’ve actually read the paper in several years. Most of my news comes to me through the Internet, the Daily Show, or the Colbert Report. I found out about Osama bin Laden’s death through the Internet. Facebook seems to have news travel faster than the mass media.

The article I found mentioned my local county libraries charging out of district fees to non-residences. Yes, the library card as a free prospect was going to be turned into an $80 charge if I didn’t live in the right city. I don’t according to the newspaper website.

Luckily, I don’t use the county libraries as much as the city library. Kind to think of it, I’ve been getting most of my books from either Amazon or book exchange websites like Paperbackswap.com. Agreed, I pay for postage, shipping and or the cost of the book. But these all save me time. The library, if it is free, does save money. But I’m sure if the county is starting to charge fees, the similarly broke cities will follow suit. So I began to wonder, is the Free Library System going to be a thing of the past?

I have wonderful memories of my local library. My first lessons of responsibility came from my first library card. If I lost a book, I had to pay for it with my allowance. As I got older, I used the free aspect of the library to get free movie rentals. If you were patient, the library could save you a lot of money if you were on a student budget. I even remember being absolutely devastated when my local library closed after the 1989 California Bay Area Quake. Two weeks without videos and library books, oh the horror.

Now, video stores are empty with lease signs posted on the doors. Of course, I haven’t walked into a video store since 2005. I’ve been using Netflicks or On-Demand movie rental. Or I even go and see the movie when it is first released.

As far as books, I did make a promise to myself this year to go and start using my local library branch more often. I did, for a while. But then Amazon, with it’s tempting “no waiting list” for my favorite authors, links me to click to charge my latest awaited book. It's just too easy and fast. I think my patience is less while I'm older. Or it just goes to other places, and I have less tolerance for waiting for library books to come in. Maybe I just like the convenience of the Internet. I didn't have it in the early 90s when I was a college student.

Then I discovered Paperbackswap.com. Here was a way to get older books from other readers, and send out a lot of my paperbacks from the shelves. I knew they’d get a good home since they were going to people that requested them. Yes, it can take awhile to get a book. But at least you know it’s coming from someone that enjoyed it, and when done, you can pass it along.

So, maybe I have just outgrown the library. If I want a book fast and it’s my favorite author, I’m willing to pay for it and support the author at the same time. Plus, I’ve discovered a lot of Indie Authors that you won’t find in most libraries. Amazon has far more available than most libraries could ever hope to have. And I’ve found that the libraries just don’t take any old books either. Most of my old books end up at Goodwill. But then, that could be just my local system. It may vary in other areas.

Plus, for those hard to find/out of print titles the on-line book exchanges seem to be working. It isn’t free, since you do have to pay postage. But it is more of a recycle program, reusing books and clearing space in your home, so you have more books to read. Plus, a lot of rural areas far from libraries have postal service. This can make it easier than making a trip into the local town library. Or if there is a small town library, the selection isn't as big as on-line.

Lastly, with cities around the country looking for ways to add to their budgets, programs such as libraries will most likely start having fees. Since one library has started in my area, I’m sure more will follow. If you use the library a lot, it will still be worth it. Of course, that's only if the fee is reasonable.

I do hope they allow students to have the free card still. That is when I used the library the most, as a struggling student both in high school and college. Any break at that time in your life is well worth it. And if my fee helps kids and college students to use library services, so be it. But then, I’m already paying income, property, and sales taxes. I already know that nothing is really for free.

**Local Newspaper: San Jose Mercury News article on $80 fee for County Libraries
*More free clip art available at school-clipart.com.

1 comment:

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