Saving libraries: check out every book.

There’s a lot to love about this story.

Stony Stratford Library empty photo
Photo: Friends of Stony Stratford Library via Facebook

…Which brings us to the Friends of Stony Stratford Library (UK) who organised their ‘Wot No Books’ campaign and harnessed the power of social networking to get the word out. Following the spread of news via Facebook and Twitter, the library’s entire collection of 16,000 books has all been loaned out – at one point forcing librarians to stamp 380 books per hour. The reason for this extraordinary action was to demonstrate the void that would be left behind if the library was closed down, as is planned by the Milton Keynes Council…


Prescription for libraries.

This article in CSM is a must-read for those of us interested in books and libraries.  I’d like to build on Mr. Wisner’s thoughts with a few off-the-cuff ideas.

  1. Throw out the computers.  When was the last time you saw someone at a library using a computer for anything library-related?  At my local libraries, it’s chat, e-mail, gaming.  I understand and value the service provided here for people who cannot afford a computer, DSL line, and printer in there own home; and yet, who are these people?  They belong to a rapidly shrinking demographic.  I’m typing this on a netbook that cost under $300.  When I was working as a case manager, I spent a lot of time in the homes of people who would be considered “low-income”, and without an exception they had large-screen televisions and stereo systems.  Take the public access  computers out of libraries.  Trust me; they’ll get access at school.
  2. Limit the wi-fi hours.  I like the wi-fi at the library; I use it.  I’m also willing to accept limitations placed on that free service – I should need to be a patron of the library, a card-carrying, dues-paying member.  Weed out the riff-raff!  But seriously: can you find nowhere else to mooch the free wi-fi?  Set certain hours for the wi-fi access to be available.  Have it be during the school day; designate space in a reading room for laptops and netbooks.  
  3. Shhhhhhhh.  I don’t care if it’s old fashioned, shut the F up.  Take your cell phone out to your car.  Leave your mp3 player out there as well.  My two-year old understands what a “whisper voice” is; I’m sure she’d conduct some instructional seminars for a small fee.  Librarians should not be swayed by the forces pushing them to “lighten up,” “adapt,” “change with the times.”  That’s doublespeak for turn the library into a free-for-all hoo-hah.  Or something like that.
  4. Audiobook storytimes.  Not to supplant the librarian-facilitated storyhours for children, but to broaden the concept.  The idea that Mr. Wisner’s library had a video playing in the childrens’ area gives me a splitting headache.  Why not set an audiobook playing instead?  An audiobook, with a few paper copies of the book if people want to follow along, would provide the best parts of the video concept (assuming for the moment that there are some) in the library.  Parents uncomfortable with reading aloud, or that feel like they can’t do it in an entertaining enough manner to compete with other entertainments, would no doubt pick up some tricks from the professional narrators.  And it would provide a daily destination for parents and children looking for low-cost, air-conditioned summer entertainments.
  5. Partner up with local universities and colleges.  I’m sure this already happens in some places, but not around here: make it a requirement of senior year to have students from all majors provide free seminars at the libraries.  Sharing knowledge should be one of the primary goals of libraries, and what better way to prepare students to use the knowledge they’ve gained than have them find interesting ways to share it with other adults and children?