Friday, March 28, 2008

End of an Era

"Personally, I think they've taken this electronic thing too far ..."

I'm sure I've mentioned before that the library I work in is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. (Stop yawning, I can see you). Anyway, I've gone on record as saying lots of these changes are Positive Steps.

Major market research has shown that the public wants better locations, 7 day opening, better books and more access to the Internet and who are we to argue with The Public? I'm not sure who did the research. I've an image of a helmet-haired woman in navy, wielding a clipboard, but that might be the soup. I've just drunk two mugs full and it's gone to my head. (Broccoli and spinach in case you're interested - I'm trying to offset my recent chocolate frenzy).

Apparently, bookshops have taken the lead in marketing and how to present their wares and libraries can learn a lot from them, which makes sense. The library is a business, at the end of the day, blah, blah blah. That's not a technical phrase, but trying to work out the mechanics makes my brain hurt.

ANYWAY, that's all well and good. Better books, nice displays, Internet access, faxing your granny in Australia, downloading CDs onto your MP3 player. Fine. No problemo. (Don't tell anyone about the downloading though.)

But, here's the crunch. The ONE THING I thought libraries could never replace - and would be brought to their knees without - was the humble date-stamp. They've been around forever (probably) and, to be honest, when I started working at the library the thing I was looking forward to most was making that satisfying 'thunking' noise. Or was it more of a 'ker-chink'? I was even looking forward to using a date-stamp.....(ooh you're such a joker - Ed.)

Well, it turns out, they can. Function without them. And very soon, they will be doing. When a customer takes out a book, using our New Fangled system, they'll be given a receipt from one of these babies instead -
Very Tesco's non?

All well and good in theory, but - I don't know about you - I'm rubbish with receipts. They pile up in my purse 'til it won't shut, then I have a chucking out ceremony, with tea and cakes, and realise two days later that I've thrown out the one I needed for that thing that's gone wrong/gone off/or didn't fit.

I can't imagine the state the customers are going to be in. I'm actually considering date-stamping their arms as a reminder, but that'll mean they won't be able to wash properly and we don't want (any more) smelly customers coming in. I don't know what it all means, or what the world's coming to quite frankly.

I think I need a sit-down and some more (or should it be less?) soup.


Kerry said...

Ah that is sad news indeed! I am a regular user of our local library. I enjoy being able to get my mitts on free books and all the other new fangled stuff but I also love the nostalgia of visiting a big place devoted to books with that special smell (no not the customers!)and that feeling that words really are essential and important.

I spent some of my happiest afternoons as a child squirreled away in a corner of the library and I bet I'm not the only one. So I'll join the campaign - bring the progress but keep the nostalgia, please!

CL Taylor said...

When I was at school we made a library of our books and the best bit was getting to stamp the books! We didn't have a kerchunk stamp unfortunately but thumping the slip with the stamp was great! I hate to admit I haven't been to a library since I was at Uni but I KNOW a receipt system wouldn't work with me. I lose EVERYTHING! Stamps work so much better - you just open your book and there it is, the date you have to return the book. So simple, so effective, why change it? Silliness.

Milla said...

NO! I don't get the world sometimes. Receipt will be lost straight away AND I imagine the cost of all the equipment will be horrendous. Utter madness. Would love to have had a go with a date stamp, so at least you can die happy knowing that YOU did.

Alis said...

I'm going to buck the trend and say 'Hooray - a free bookmark!' I'm always looking for something to mark my page so that I don't deface somebody else's book/the library's copy with a dog-ear. A receipt would be just the - wait for it... - ticket!

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Why do the powers that be always have to change something that works perfectly well?

I can't imagine a library book without a date stamp? How are you going to remember when to change it?

Don't we have enough flippin receipts floating around in our handbags/drawers/pockets already?

Lane Mathias said...

At my tiny litle local library I always use the self service machine and it churns out a receipt which goes straight in the bin. BUT, the nice ladies leave a date stamp thing there so you can also stamp them yourself and it's soo satisfying although inevitably upside down. Littlie daughter loves stamping her books almost as much as I do.
(The library ladies also say that people always leave their card in the machine).
I also order and renew books on-line which is cool. God I love the library:-)

HelenMWalters said...

I used to work in an academic library and we used to have lots of different date stamps - long loan, weekly loan, overnight loan. Sigh, it was so much fun! The slips will never work, unless the date is actually stamped in the book people will be able to claim they had no idea when it was due back!

Karen said...

The library wants more people to use our online service, and to encourage younger, funkier customers through its doors - which is great, but the oldies (who make up a large percentage of our customers) are being sidelined. In my opinion.

Caroline said...

Noooooo! That's just wrong!

I used to long for one of those stamp machines when I played libraries as a kid. And the first thing that I did, whenever I got a library book, was to look and see if my birthday date was there. And oh the thrill if it was!

I know. I am/was/always will be easily pleased.

Jen said...

I'm awfully sorry - you rather lost me when I mis-read 'waxing your fanny in Australia'.

What can I say? It's been a long week.

Marcie Steele said...

Well I can beat you all, I spent two years working for the post office and using their date stamp! Mind you I had more fun refusing to stamp things as people would try to get their giros early.

What on earth will happen when the paper roll needs changing. Argh! x

DAB said...

Nick the old date stamp, take it home, and bonk to your heart's content (This is a joke! BONK, BONK):) TommoX

Karen said...

I might start a campaign called SODS - Save our Date-Stamps. Has quite a ring, don't you think??

Poetess said...

Go with the new fangled machine chucking out receipts. At least you won't get repetitive strain as my mother did using the date stamp in her role as sub postmistress. I'm useless with receipts myslef so goodness knows what state mine will be in.
I need some of your soup. I have gone OTT with the chocolate too.

Karen said...

poetess - Well, someone was raving about them at work this morning. Seems they already have them in Essex libraries and they're 'well good.' Apparently. I suppose if you can't beat them you might as well join them :o) (I'm telepathically sending you some soup, by the way. It's carrot. I hope you like it.)

Anna Scott Graham said...

that's how the San Jose libraries all are... you don't even need to talk to a person.

unless your receipt gets jammed, I suppose... sigh....

however, a machine won't be able to recommend a book... you're not obsolete!!!


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