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March 2019



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At The Library

What a beautiful song, what an earworm. I only have to hear Bob Dylan’s Make Me Feel Your Love once to have it fixed firmly in my head and I'm obsessed with it this morning. The version you hear on the radio all the time is by Adele but I prefer Bryan Ferry from Dylanesque.

Our library has had a makeover. As everything has moved and I have no sense of direction, it’s harder than ever for me to find the books I might want. Before the change I was forever wandering around hopelessly, muttering, ‘What’s wrong with Dewey, for goodness sake’ as I made my way round stands marked ‘Quick Choice’, ‘Something Different’ or ‘New Books’. That and wondering which genre a particular author might be deemed to fit and shuddering at those horrible carousels which hide two thirds of the books from you.

We are now a do-it-yourself library, where the reader is responsible for borrowing and returning books, without stamps. It’s not really self-serve, as no sooner do you approach the console clutching your books and reader’s card than a librarian appears from nowhere at your shoulder, enquires kindly if you are ‘all right’ and proceeds to do the job for you. Old habits, eh? I said to one that I hoped this system would not be putting any of them out of a job. ‘Oh, we’ve got plenty to do’, she replied rather smugly, and whisked back into the librarians’ lair. I must say they’re all very cheerful these days.

I haven’t counted to see how my Library Challenge is going. All too often I prowl around and come out empty handed. You want the latest books? They might come over from Swanage or Bridport. You want the book before last in a series? Sorry, the early ones have gone. The 10p trolley is always full of more books they’re getting rid of. I could reserve books but to get anything from outside the county costs £3.85. Some people will think this very mean of me but I don’t see why, because my library is small, I should pay extra for what is supposed to be a free service, when I already pay Council Tax. Besides, for £3.85 I could buy a book, or several.


The libraries here are pitiful - the fiction shelves are endless new chicklit, and there is very little non fiction (lots of categories but only a handful of books in each) and vast sections given over to Mills and Boon, Large Print and cowboy books. And closed on Saturdays - is this normal everywhere now, or just the Borders?

I am looking forward to being a student and having access to city libraries, but it makes me sad too. When I was growing up our small town library was excellent and my Saturday morning visit one of the high points of my week, saddo that I was!
Not just us then. I always imagine Scotland to be better off for public services :-)
Our library is closed on Tuesday afternoons and all day Wednesday. They did close on Saturdays for a while but must have thought better of it.

I also used to take out my four books a week from a small library and later was spoiled by living in places with big libraries. I'm a regular reader of Private Eye's Library News column. Tsk. They rebuild a library e.g. in Brighton (one of the good ones once available to me) and get rid of half the books! Books account for a very small part of the library budget these days.
I drive a mobile library van, and I must admit when I first started I was taken aback by the number of Mills and Boon and western books we stock. Now I've been in the job a while, I can see that these are actually some of the most heavily borrowed books... people will borrow twelve at a time, and are starting to ask for more as many of them have read them all several times!

We do have a Saturday service here at least, but they are our quietest days by far. There are some stops where in all the time I've worked on the van I've only ever seen one or two customers.

I knew M and B had a dedicated readership, but I din't know cowboy books were still popular - I thought, like the films, they were a bit old hat these days.

I would love your job!
If M & B and Westerns are what people want, you're meeting their needs, which is nice.

I wonder what keeps the clients indoors on Saturdays? Can't be the telly as there's nothing on!
This sounds infuriating, I dread it happening to our library, which is already exceedingly limited. I do reserve books (80p a time) - when I can find them in the catalogue, which is a feat requiring higher programming skills, especially since they have just changed to new software and very little actually works - but you can't request anything from outside the county. On the other hand, as you say, you can buy several books for what it would cost, so what's the point?
Depressing, isn't it? No wonder I buy so many books.
Do you find they don't stock classics? Ours has mostly new books, too. I don't think our library would appreciate donations, so they go to the charity shops :-)
I so agree!! I think I've given up on mine apart from buying the odd paperback off the sale trolley now. I recently tried two P G Wodehouse books on cds read by Jonathan Cecil (£1.50 each - why charge for these?) and they not only didn't work they seem to have messed up the CD player as other CDs keep skipping now!
We are poorly served. They say 'Use it or Lose it' (Colehill library was in danger of closing) but then don't provide what people want.
Awful about the CDs!
This is interesting stuff. We also have those carousels on the van, for paperbacks. I agree it's much harder to find (and shelve) books on them, but the big advantage is that we can store a lot more books than we could if we only had shelves. Books are always flying off them though!

I sometimes wonder how best to approach customers, whether I should leave them to browse in peace, or whether I should step up and offer to help. Generally I hang back, keep myself busy and leave people to it, but there are a few who like me to wander round with them and help make a selection. I hate being hovered over when I am in shops or libraries, so my assumption is most other people would dislike it too.

When I was first being shown the ropes it was fascinating to see the way my colleagues act when they are serving - some are great buddies with the customers and will spend ages chatting about knee operations and so on, others are much more aloof and will barely exchange a handful of words.

Reservations used to cost 50p for requests from within the county libraries, now they are free but it does cost £2.50 to reserve a book not on our catalogue. I think they should stick to spending money on books too. The selection of films and CDs in our county libraries is bizarre - picked by someone with no taste or interest in film or music.

I don't like the sound of a self-service counter!
You have a wonderful job! I won't fight debodacious for it though, as I'd be scared stiff driving that van. A Tesco delivery man once told me that he loved his job because 'everyone's pleased to see me.' and the same must apply to you.

It would be interesting to find out the cost effectiveness of spending on CDs, DVDs and books, checking by borrowing figures. I will always think a library is a place for books.

The new self-service system consists of two little booths, each with a touch screen and a scanner which reads your card and the book title. If the library is busy, there will still be a queue.