Library Fire Sale

By , September 15, 2011 8:29 am

By Kristine Lloyd

I have an alert set up on Google to catch stories about libraries. Like rummaging through a thrift store pile, you wouldn’t believe some of the bizarre gems that come up: Librarian collects belly button lint in a jar, and yes, ladies, he’s single! Or the countless stories of people putting strange and interesting things in book drops.

But the stories that come up time and time again are the sad pleas to get people into the library. Book sales, coffee shops, and articles that proselytize about free resources. Forget Netflix folks, your local library has it all. Never mind that you’ll have to wait three months to see the latest release. And then, of course, there are scads of corollary articles about budget cuts. It’s too depressing to even open the links. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m not part of a dying breed, and yet, we seem to be as busy as ever at my firm. We librarians get mixed signals. We’re dinosaurs; no, wait, we’re saving the world from information overload. My head is spinning with the contradictions. But what are we to learn from this? Clearly there will never be a time when we can just sit back on our laurels and rake in the dough. We will always have to market our worth, but maybe we shouldn’t peddle our wares like we’re a mattress store going out of business. Desperation frightens people. Wouldn’t it be better to get people’s attention through innovation, rather than running the same, old ads for content we’ve had for ages?

People want to visit us for our shiny new things, not because we have dog-eared books that will save them $12.95. I can try to extol the virtues of all of our print resources to the new associates, but they’ll be most enthralled with the library when we offer them a cool, new electronic resource. There’s a reason people will run out to get the iPhone5 even when their iPhone4 still functions. The fall clothing lines are just starting to come in, and I’m ready for the racks of bargain basement summer threads to get carted away to make room for all of the pretty, new autumnal hues.

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