My library has gone Self-Service, and I don’t know how I feel about it.
Last week I snuck out with four books tucked under my arm, feeling like a thief. Yes, I had scanned them in. But it still seems hugely wicked to go into this Aladdin’s Cave of treasure and walk away with a bundle of loot under my arm – and no-one to stop me. Is there an element of misplaced trust here on the part of the County Councils, I wonder? I know that the number of books stolen from libraries around the country is quite shocking. Are the authorities just throwing in the towel, accepting what they consider to be the inevitable?
And what is to happen to the Librarians? I love librarians. They are prepared to take so much time with you, to find what you want, to help you. They come up with all sorts of suggestions – and are quick to point out if you have taken out a certain book previously, as I did twice! They will even point you in the direction of talks, exhibitions and meetings that might be of interest to you, according to the books you take out. A young man in my library handed me a flyer about author Chris Binchy being a Writer in Residence in Cabinteely Library, giving help to prospective authors on four successive Saturdays. This because I had taken out a book entitled Writing Your First Novel….before the new system started, I may say. Will the Self-Service software do this?
When I went to order Margaret Drabble’s latest book (don’t bother!) at the desk before Christmas I saw a notice-board which informed me that she had spoken at The Pavilion in Dun Laoghaire the previous week! How had I missed it? Because I had been using the Self-Service option and hadn’t gone to the desk when I was getting out my last batch of books.
These are trivial objections to the new system. We can adjust …of course we can. But the people who will really suffer are the lonely people who went on a regular basis to their library to browse at their leisure and then go up and have a chat – maybe an extended chat, I admit – with the librarian, who has, over the years, become a friend. Instead of getting out half a dozen books for the three-week lending period, they would get just one, or maybe two. Why? So that they could visit more often, and chat more often.