or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Customer Anti-Service

   January 4th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Library: Love Some, Serve SomeA couple stories recently caught my attention, as examples of threats to the service libraries can provide.

First was an (much talked about) New York Times article, about a library in New Jersey. They were being overrun by kids after school let out. Their solution? Close the library between 2:45pm and 5:00pm.

I don't agree with this, but I can empathize - I used to work at a library with the same concern, but to a much lesser degree. Even still, this is not a long-term solution. My current library is lucky enough to have both a Childrens and a Young Adult Librarian, who do after-school programming as well as special programming on early-release days - recognizing who your patrons are and preparing for them is the key.

The second story is an issue brought up recently on the Maine Libraries listserv (MELIBS-L). The following message was posted to the list on behalf of an unnamed library:

...city council [is requesting] to apply the following to non-residents: Anyone who walks through the door must prove they have a card or will be asked to leave. Anyone who asks a reference question or brings children to storytime or uses any service from this library will be asked to pay a fee. This will not apply to use of internet connectivity as that is not permitted under e-rate rules...

Maine librarians have always been open and supportive, and a great deal of discussion ensued (the highlights of which are below in the comments). Again though, although I can understand how someone could reach this as a solution, it just goes against everything libraries stand for. I haven't heard yet what happened with this city council request, but will post the result when I do.

Geez. We all talk about how outstanding customer service needs to be our bottom line if libraries are to have any kind of future, so it is shocking that situations like these exist in American libraries today.

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