Thursday, August 20, 2009

Disappointed

Would you mind if I complained about something really quick? Kat wanted me to hate something about Ithaca. I think hate is way too strong a word for this, but get ready for some strong feelings of annoyance:

The library here is only so-so.

I was very spoiled in Tucson (and Provo). Tucson/Pima County's libraries worked like multiple branches of the same tree. I could log on to the system, request a book, tell it which library to go to, and then waltz in at my convenience to pick it up. There were a few times when the library didn't have a book I wanted, so I got into the habit of submitting book requests for those times. And guess what? More often than not, they bought the book I wanted, and then told me they had done so, and then automatically put it on hold for me. Yes, it's true.

Let me tell you how it works in Ithaca, at least so far as I can figure out (and I would just love to find out that I'm misinformed on any of these points).

There are multiple branches of Tompkins County libraries, but only kind of, because they're not all in Tompkins County. But the system still searches all those far-away libraries and returns results for them in their online catalog.

If you want to check out a book that the Ithaca library doesn't have (and chances are it doesn't have it, or if it does have it, it only has one copy), you can place a hold on it, and they will ship it in from the far away library. But as I found out the other day (you know, when I almost got a ticket), this service costs 50 cents per book.

When the librarian told me that picking up my library book from the hold desk would cost me 50 cents, I was taken aback. So I asked her what my alternative was. She said, "Alternative for what?" I said, "Alternative for getting a book I want that is not currently on the shelf in the Ithaca branch of the library." And do you know what she told me, after a moment of thought? "Well, I guess you could just check on its status online and wait for it to come in." "Magically of its own accord, with me using all my hours and hours of free time to sit in front of my computer screen and hit 'refresh'" was implied.

This made me sad. I thrive on a good library and I wither away without one.

Fortunately, we have access to Cornell''s library, and we can even get books shipped from other cooperative libraries (for free) straight to Jeremy's office. So I hope he has fun explaining to his colleagues why he is suddenly receiving books like Catching Fire (sequel to The Hunger Games, could not BE more excited)!

So there you have it. That's my damage. I'm disappointed in the library. Ithaca is not perfect. Are you happy now?

19 comments:

JackJen said...

Do you have the option of using the Cornell library system?

Bridget said...

Yeah, sorry, that's what I meant by "university library." I'll change it to be more clear.

Is this a weird East Coast thing, Jen?

Crys said...

Oh that is a huge deal. I live in a town that is actually three smaller towns squished together. I actually go to one of the "other towns" because I love their library so much. It of course is only five minutes but still it isn't my town. It definitely is part of what makes me happy.

JackJen said...

Nope. Our library system is fantastic. We're actually part of the "Minuteman Libary Network," and our cards let us in to any library in the network (probably 30-40 libraries). We're not limited to our town library--we can change our online preferences to include at which library in the network we want to pick up our books, for instance. It's awesome.

(Um, and really, I should have picked up on 'university library,' cause, yeah....it's not a vague term, and it's not like there are gobs of well-known universities in Ithaca.)

Liz Johnson said...

That stinks. I have a similar problem in South Bend: I have to go to the library where the book is located to pick it up. But... to be fair, all of the library's 6 or 7 locations are within 20 minutes of me. So it's not a huge deal.

I have actually never tried requesting that the library acquire a book. How does one go about that??

Lilianne said...

That was a nice attempt, Bridget! A for effort.

That was some nice customer service that library lady gave you! NICE. Thanks for nothin' lady!

I'm going to wait a few more months and ask the question again...

Amanda said...

Yeah, the San Luis Obispo library system, when I was there, if you failed to pick up your transported hold, then they'd charge you. But, my friend who still lives there tells me they've started charging for every book. And nice work on getting Catching Fire. PCPL doesn't even have it yet and I'm still hold number 92 out of 300-something.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

It could be that your local library is ahead of most libraries in charging for services any way they can. In Beaverton & Portland the library systems provide superb service but no public entity is immune to the trend of bone-deep budget cuts, and libraries are going to have to find a way to bring in a few cents somehow. Just a thought.

Lisa Lou said...

I was spoiled having the Loudounn County Library system in northern virginia. No late fees, you can change the pickup location of books, it was heaven. Not so anymore in Pleasant Grove, utah. Even though I've paid my weight in libray fees for overdue books, I STILL forget to turn them in on time.

Nancy said...

I won't even start about the "libraries" here. :) Oh, to have a library...

But I see your point.

Anna said...

Whew! I saw your title "Disappointed" and then I saw the image of "Catching Fire" and I was very worried that you had somehow gotten an advance copy and the book was totally lousy. I am glad to know that your disappointment is in something that will not affect my own happiness :) At least you have Cornell.

I have the book on hold too; I am pretty excited.

Susanne said...

Your mom's comment makes sense. Perhaps they are trying to pass along costs to the people who actually use that particular service. I know it's frustrating though when you pay taxes that you *hope* will cover these things.

Anonymous said...

Interlibrary loan costs the library (any library) more than 50 cents per item, and the Ithaca library keeps getting its funding cut. You can't get something for nothing, and I suspect you could afford the 50 cents. The librarian's response was unsatisfying, but you wouldn't have liked it if she'd explained the economics of the situation, either. Ithaca has quite a small tax base because both Cornell and Ithaca College are tax-exempt.

Bridget said...

Yes, Anonymous, I know I sound like a spoiled jerk in this post. I think it's just that I've come from an exceptionally well funded library system and so the shock of having to actually pay the library for the amazing services they provide was slightly painful for me. I always thought it was kind of magical that the Tucson library provided hold requests from any library in the system for free. Now I'm seeing the other side of that equation.

Liz, on the Tucson library website, the "Request a Book" was a link on the catalog page. So you could look around on your library's site.

Lisa Lou, for reals, NO late fees?!? Now that is magical.

Nancy, I feel your pain. That's why I lived on Project Gutenberg books whenever we were over there.

Anna & Amanda, I don't physically have the book in my possession, but I hope Jeremy will be embarrassed by its delivery at his office very, very soon.

Kat Clark said...

Boo. That was a good attempt but I am waiting for an Ithica nastygram! :) Thanks for trying, I can see how that would be annoying.

Tyler Ball said...

The Utopia will never be the same...

Jeremy Palmer said...

There is one electronic check-out machine here (in the children's area). Last time it was down so we had to wait in line for some time. I think that our old friend, Anonymous, hit the nail on the head. It's the tax exempt status of the institutional establishments here that cause the strange dichotomy: plenty of people who want plenty of books, but there are not plenty of funds for the library. The library should have some sort of tax-exempt status from tax-exempt schools that would counter the binary headache.

Shannan said...

I can so empathize with you -
I moved from the greatest library system - the King County library system in the greater Seattle area. It sounds a lot like the one you describe only add to the attribute list that I could request ANY new book or movie or CD and it was available - sometimes with a short wait, but always available.

Now I moved the Salem library system. It is stuck 20 years in the past. I didn't like it for years, but I'm slowly learning the system and just accepting it for what it is. Listen to this nugget of the Salem system. There is only ONE library that serves the whole city and there is heavily monitored metered parking there so you HAVE to pay to park to go into the library. Also, any DVD you borrow you have to pay $1 for. And the late fees are steep - 25 cents a day. It really adds up.

But like I said, I'm learning to live with you and you will learn to live with Ithaca while fondly remembering your old and pratically perfect system in Tuscan (and I'll remember King county).

Jennifer said...

Our system in Orange County sounds like Tucson, but they do charge $0.25 for each book you request. I don't mind paying it one bit to save me the effort of driving somewhere far away to pick it up. I've talked to a few friends around the country who also pay a quarter for each book. I did find out recently that if you don't pick up the book you requested, they don't charge you. I thought that was nice. :)

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