Some of us have it good, some of us not so much, but all of us can agree that a library is an indispensable tool to a community and I stand by that statement even facing the future of digital books. The right kind of driven and supported library can be more than just place to borrow a book it can be the center of great community life, especially for those of us with young children.
Like anything in life we can be disappointed. Maybe you hate to see a huge DVD collections of popular movies rather than non-fiction or documentaries, or the latest soft-core “paranormal romance” geared towards adolescents pushing out the classics or maybe you’re a mother of young children who wants a better selection of materials than “Dora” and “Spongebob” or deal with meager selection of adult fiction or non-fiction. It can get frustrating when we feel like our needs aren’t being met, but there are ways to get the most out of your community Library.
These are a few suggestions of my own; any librarians out there please pipe in if you agree or disagree!
- Volunteer – This is one of the best ones I can offer, particularly for those of us with children. Shelving books for an hour or two a week or even a month frees up time for your Librarian to focus on things like book orders and planning activities. It also helps the Library staff become more knowledgeable about the people they’re catering to and is an easy way to gain feedback, criticism and praise.
- Make Friends – Not all of us have the time to volunteer, but start getting to know the staff particularly if you’re a regular and if they know your name (or your kids) you should know theirs. Talk to your Librarians!
- Share Your Contacts – Does your family know traditional Chinese Dances, or play a the bagpipes; is your office mate a member of the local orchestra ; does your retired father have a selection of vintage trains he’d love to show off? Do you know someone who was in WWII or met the president or climbed Mt. Everest. Even if your Librarian politely declines your offer it’s worth a shot to say “Hey, I know someone who…”
- Use InterLibrary Loan – InterLibrary Loan is an amazing program that most local libraries can participate in. It’s a way for them to give their communities the books they want with out the price tag and a way for you to subtly let them know what the community wants to read. I have more than a couple ILL books I’ve requested show up as a “new purchase” the day I went to collect them.
- Participate – Go to the book clubs and children’s nights. Even if they don’t sound too interesting to begin with bring a friend and go out for coffee later; again, the only way for the Library to met the needs of it’s community is to know the needs of it’s community. If the only folks participating in Book club are the little old bluehairs who think enjoy whodunnit’s about a very curious cat, then that’s all you’re going to get!
- Make Your Voice Known – Let me first state that this gives no one the right to get nasty; do the following with courtesy and respect. If there’s an issue you just can’t solve on your own make your voice known. There are no guarantees what can come of it, but a nicely worded letter or email to the Director could help change things for the better and you don’t know until you try. On the flip side, they need to know what you like just as much as what you didn’t!
- Use More Than One Library – If your needs still aren’t being met at your Local look to near by communities. If you live in a city with a suburb or vice versa there will often be ways you can get a limited Library Card to a different library.
- Ask For The Right Kind of Help– A librarians brain isn’t hard wired with the card catalog, take a moment to check on the computer to find out ahead of time if something is in or where it should be located. In fact, many larger libraries have their catalogs online so you can search from home during nap time or bed time. Our Local even has a reserve system that allows us to put 5 books on hold from our home computers, and then emails us when they have been collected and are ready to be picked up from the front desk. And do not say to your Librarian “Do you have that one book? You know about the frog? I think it had a green cover or maybe it was red.”
- Ask The Right Questions – The above is the wrong kind of question. Asking the right questions is often key at getting good help. Ask for help once you’ve attempted to find what you’re looking for yourself. Ask for suggestions, but don’t expect a miracle.
- Be Polite – Help your Librarian be the best he or she can be by starting off on the right foot. Your Librarians are human being who have good days and bad days. Don’t expect them to know everything or be able to keep everyone happy – they have to juggle their own bosses, schedules, budgets and patrons desires and they can’t do it all! Remember that these are people with Masters Degrees who, on average, don’t make a lot of money – they’ve gotten that degree and taken that job out of a love of books and learning and deserve respect. And we all know just how much a sincere thank you or a little extra patience can turn a day around!