Monday, November 10, 2008

LIS 768: Final Paper Abstract (in a roundabout way)

I can write papers like nobody's business. Seriously. It's not bragging, because I can dang sure back it up ;). So why am I having such a hard time with this one?!?! On the surface, it's really not that difficult: Write 10-12 pages expanding on the context book I read, and apply it to libraries.

I chose the Starbucks book, and really enjoyed it. Starbucks isn't just about coffee; it is an "experience", and the company has consciously made the effort to jump from ordinary to extraordinary. Starbucks is known as a "third place"--the place that's neither home nor work, that's neutral and where (theoretically) everyone is on an equal footing. I think that's where the disconnect is coming in. Many libraries, although they want to be that kind of third place, fail because of their seeming reluctance to look beyond rules and regulations, and trust in their patrons. Paradoxically, the only reason many libraries even still exist is BECAUSE of their patrons and the trust the patrons invest in their libraries. Simply put, I know my job is made possible by all the people who come use the Winsted Library. No patrons=no job. It's quite simple, actually. Yet, libraries seem surprised that more patrons don't embrace the library as a third place with the same fervor that they do Starbucks.

Yet today at work (at the library), I was witness to a very concrete reason as to why libraries struggle to become a third place. And, worse, all I could do (at the moment) was to stand there, absolutely dumbfounded as the head librarian told me about a phone conversation she'd had with someone from our library system's headquarters. To wit: HQ called the head librarian and said (in all seriousness)"You need to tell Patron X to stop checking out so many books and placing so many holds." The librarian replied that the patron was a child who is an avid beginning reader, and has read much of what we have. Didn't matter, they just needed to stop requesting so many books.

WTF????? It's a LIBRARY. That's what one does from the library, yes? And part of our job as librarians is to get the materials to the patrons?

Even worse, the librarian actually passed the message on to the mom of the patron in question. That's when I asked to hear about the original conversation. Too late, though-the words can't be unsaid. And, instead of the normally towering pile of books they usually check out, they left with ~10. Even as I told the mom to just check out as many as she wanted, she just said, "It's no big deal." Oh, I said, but it is. And, that I'd be putting on my blog...

So, back to the paper. Maybe I'm just disillusioned at the moment that given this kind of behavior, libraries seriously expect people to think third place=library, instead of Starbucks. But, in the interest of graduating this upcoming May, I will soldier on, and expound at great length (for 10 pages) about what the principles of Starbucks's business model are, and how libraries can utilize them in their quest to become a beloved 'third place'.


Anonymous said...

I'm guessing because you say it was a beginning reader and the mom was there checking out books, it wasn't an issue of unclaimed holds?

Some libraries that assess $1 per unclaimed hold and that in itself takes care of that.

Peifer's 23 Things said...

That is so sad! I cannot believe that a library would say this, especially to child!

Lisa said...

It wasn't an issue of unclaimed holds-those we just send back, no big deal.

It was because (as far as I can tell) the mom had requested the books from MNLink instead of our system catalog; those MNLink requests are sent on manually from our HQ...if the books are actually in our system, then the MNLink holds are canceled, and a hold is put on the copy in our system. So, because the mom had requested ~24 books, each of those holds had to be looked at, canceled, & re-requested. Not a big deal. I'll be calling up to HQ tomorrow to try & find out *exactly* what the problem is. So, if Im out of a job come Wednesday night, you'll all know why ;).

Seriously, though-it's sad that 1)it's even an issue, 2)that now the damage is done, and 3)that it was to *any* patron, not just a 4 year old & her mom. :(

Maybe I should e-mail John McCain and ask if I can borrow his "Change is Coming" slogan...' Because yessir, there's gonna BE some changes!