Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Membership has its privileges, a rant

I have never understood why people have such a tough time with the notion that you need a library card for certain things in the library.  It's a membership, like at any other business or organization.  No one questions that you need a Price Chopper card to get the discounts at Price Chopper.  Or that you need a Prime Membership to take advantage of free 2-day shipping at Amazon.  Or that you need an airline membership to collect and use frequent flyer miles.  There are actually people who not only don't get why you need a library card, they actively do not want a card.  They are anti-library card.  Not Anti-Library, just anti-card.  And then they complain that there are things they just can't do while they are here.  It's kind of bizarre, actually.

Actual example: I had a patron not too long ago who wanted to use our computers to check his credit card account, log on to social security, and renew his boat registration with the DMV.  And he didn't want to get a library card because he didn't want US to know his information.  Yeah, because we're Big Brother.   *sigh*

Yes, we are a public library.  Yes, by definition, we are open for free use by the public without restriction of age, race, gender, sexual preference, income, religion of political bent.  But we also offer a membership to the public (with the same lack of restrictions).  That membership comes with a card that allows access to even more services and materials.   And it, too, is FREE.

Without a library card you can do an almost endless list of things.  You can read a boo, look at a magazine, make a copy, use the wi-fi, attend a movie, come to story time, meet an author, do a puzzle, put on a puppet show, hang out with your friends, meet with a tutor, read the newspaper, use the fax machine, talk to the fish, say hi to a librarian.  The list is nearly endless.

There are two things you need a library card to do at the library where I work (other libraries may differ, but most I have seen tend towards the same).  The first is check stuff out and take it home.  If we are going to trust you with hundreds (or thousands) of dollars worth of materials, we do need to know who you are and where you live.  Just in case.  Yes, I'm sure you are perfectly trustworthy, but it only takes one bad apple.  Once you have that card, though, you can check out books, magazines, movies, software, audiobooks, and graphic novels.  Plus, you can have access to all of the paid subscription databases we have; that's thousands more magazines and journals, language lessons and test study guides, and research databases, too.  All for free!
It's even free!

The second thing you need a library card to do is use the computers here at the library.  If you bring your laptop or tablet or phone, and you want to hook up to the wi-fi, have a ball!  However, if we are going to trust you with a couple thousand dollars worth of our equipment, we need to know who you are.  Just in case.  We don't even keep a record of the computer users; once your time is up, your computer restarts and all record of your use is gone.  But you do need a card to do that. Again, it's free!

Why is this such a hard concept for people??

Thanks for listening.

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