Friday, March 17, 2023

Some library philosophy


At some point in my long library career, one full of many ideas about libraries, I came to an understanding that if lots of library patrons consistently believe we should have something, no matter how ridiculous or unlibrary-like it might seem, we should probably have it. A ruler? Free paperclips? Kleenex? Unless we have a good reason not to have them, the community at least helps to define what a library is. You will pry books out of our libraries' cold dead hands, but if you also think we should have a 3D Printer, you're probably on to something even if I'm not sure why.

But I've known this for a while now. What I have only recently come to understand is that the converse of all this is also, importantly true:

If the library gets rid of something, and nobody misses it, we didn't need it, even if people had been using it.

With that said, let's talk about the courtesy phone. As tempted as I am to relate to you the entire history of the courtesy phone at the library I work at, there is not enough time in the day! So I will just cover this:

For a long time, we had a phone at the front desk that people had to ask to use. 

People used it all the time

We even had rules about that phone's use that people constantly abused and infringed on just to use the phone more.

But one day, mostly because the technical capability came available to us, we stopped allowing use of our phone and put a courtesy phone out on a counter in the lobby instead. It has no restrictions and is readily available to anyone with a phone number to call.

Hardly anyone ever uses that phone!

I am a fierce advocate of adding things to the library on a trial basis to see if they work. Free staplers. A borrowable power tool collection. Puzzles. University lectures. Concerts in the Fiction Section. Coffee kiosks. Martini nights. I say try them all. But there is always limited time and space at the library. And so as we seek and experiment with what to add, it's also a good idea to take things away, and see if anybody notices.

I mean, except for books.

Never the books.


  1. Why don't I receive your blog posts in my daily emails anymore?

    1. Because this blogging platform stopped supporting the system that did that. I tried some grand solutions to the problem but they turned out to be a ton of work and yet, apparently, even less appealing to Internetland (see for the carcass). So here we are. One must come to the site to read it now, alas.

    2. Ok. I am doing that then.


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