Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sensory overload in a library?!?

I decided to get a library card and abuse the library here in Civilization. I worked at this same library for 4 years of high school and 2 years of college, so it was a place that I thought should fit like a perfect shoe. Well, it seems, it was the wrong size!

Back in the Wild West, I was spoiled by the librarian. She would tell me when something came in that she thought I would be interested in, or that I had asked for. All the brand new books fit on 2 book cases. The fiction section is about 4 long cases and the non-fiction went around the outside of the room. The Wild West library is 2 rooms big, the other being full of kid books. I could find what I wanted easily and without effort. Non fiction was Dewy Decimal and the librarian would just card catalog what I wanted. Fiction was alphabetized by author's last name and I could wander and find what I needed easily.

Here in hometown Civilization, the library was a different experience. Back in the day when I worked there, it was small-ish. Bigger than Wild West, but organized the same and had a card catalog that was in wooden drawers, a few computers and lots of places to read. And it was quiet. This is not what I found when I went in.

First, for a library it was loud. People were talking, I could hear the hum of music from ear buds on teens going deaf, keys clacking and just general noise. Gone was the wooden drawered catalog, replaced by lots of computers. There was a HUGE wall of magazine and periodicals. People were everywhere, laughing and talking. All this is great- please use your libraries! But it was just not what I was expecting. It was not going to be a nice quiet alcove in which to curl with a good book, but, rather, a noisy place full of hustle and bustle. And the "media" section seemed to be as large or maybe larger, than the book section- VHS, audio books, CDs, DVDs, computer software, equipment, magazines-- this all dwarfed the books.

And they are organized oddly. Non fiction was standard, but memoirs were mixed in with biographies as well as in with non fiction subjects, which made them hard to find by simple browsing. And fiction was sectioned into chunks. A mystery section, a western section, a sci fi section, a romance section. So I had to go through regular fiction to see if, for example, James Patterson is fiction or mystery- and apparently he's both- how confusing is that? And chick lit, which I do read in small doses- was it romance or fiction? Ummmm- both. And old books can be checked out for 3 weeks, new ones for 2 weeks, and there are fines for late books- I'm screwed. There is a day grace period on books, but not DVDs, which are only 7 days.... I need a guide book to use the library, and a map. And there was only one copy of the new Patterson book, Cross Country, and I am 16th on the waiting list. Realistically I could never get the book, OR a new one could be out before I get to read it.

This was strange. I used the library in Large City Civilization when I lived there 3 years ago and it was sort of like this, but I expected that library to be like that in a city of almost a million folks- and they had small little branches that felt like small libraries. And in Large City Civilization the media was cordoned off so it still felt like a small library experience. But this was just... overwhelming.

I did get some books. I hunted out favorite authors and snagged a computer to scan my Amazon list to find a some things I wanted to read. I have a feeling I'll still use Amazon as often as I ever did. I didn't even go to the music or DVD section; it scared me! No really, it was just an odd experience with all the people and new technology. I hadn't been in there for about 10 years so this was one of those "you can't go home" experiences. The winds of change are blowin', even in a library.

Bookworm at heart,


Janny Mallard said...

The activity level there will only pick up. Don't look for a quiet corner to read. Library use ALWAYS goes up when the economy is in decline. People will be looking for cheap entertainment. Some will even be looking for resources to help find jobs. In cities, expect to see more and more homeless people just trying to stay warm.

Sad about the media to books ration. Very sad. Seems like that puts the library in competition with any local businesses that rent movies. I can see it for documentary material, but I have noticed more movies on library media shelves myself. It doesn't bode well for our society OR our world. People spend inordinate amount of time and energy trying to stay in a fantasy than they do learning about reality.

Time to huff it off into my cave pretty damned soon. People won't be worth dealing with if this trend keeps up.

Maggie said...

Janny- It's very reminiscent of the first great depression back in the 30s. Entertainment never faltered because people were so depressed over their dismal lives they still went to the movies and looked for ways to escape.

And it's been a sad trend, the way of the library. Books seem to be less and less of importance. The library here even had MP3 players to check out with a particular book on it for people to listen to. What happened to the joy of the written word? The smell of a good book? The weight of the pages in your hand, the joy of touching the paper and looking at the font size and style? I love books, and while I do love my films and magazines... well, I can live without films and magazine, but I couldn't ever survive without a book. I wish others could understand the allure of the written word...

Have fun at the cave, and don't be afraid to hit folks with large objects, beat 'em with a stick- or whack 'em with a Dr. Phil book if they get to much out of line... :)