Public opinion of public libraries

Its Blog Every Day of June again and I will endeavour to do exactly that. The past two years I have had some idea of what I would blog about, this year not so much. So it will be interesting for all of us to discover just where we go.

Today I was working relief at one of our bigger branches and came across an attitude, which fortunately is not common, but unfortunately not particularly rare either. I mention it here, because I came across it twice today and have also come across it a couple of other times at different libraries in the last week or so.

Its the attitude of “its just the library” or “its just a library book”. In all instances, it was a case of the person wanted to do something at the library, most instances it was use the internet, but it was also borrowing more in one case. Each time, they were blocked from doing their desired activity, because they had bills for outstanding library books. Today it was over $200+ worth.  The titles were over two years overdue. We were informed by the borrower that they were at home, and were given the distinct impression that the person would deal with it, AFTER they had used the Internet.  They were set straight on that rather quickly. Hopefully they will be back with said outstanding items.

I would be and have been mortified, when I have discovered that a title I thought I’d returned, was found still in my possession. Fortunately that’s the attitude of most of our library users. But I was just surprised to come across so many people with this “its just a library book” attitude in such a short time. And where do they get the attitude?  One of these library users was shocked when I told her that some universities will withhold results and graduation, if the graduate has outstanding library items/charges.   Are we losing our sense of civic responsibility or did only some of us have it to begin with with?

What sort of user attitudes do you come across that really get to you? What can we do to change them?





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    • Tania on June 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Yes we get that too. I have a library friend who thinks it’s wrong for people to have a debt collector try and recover items for ‘a book’.

    I do wonder sometimes whether we can be a little too punitive and think there can be a way to balance this without spending too much time on it and giving a bad impression to the public. Having said that, I do believe that people need to be aware of their responsibilities and also that joining a library does mean they are accountable for an organisation’s assets 🙂

  1. Thanks Tania,

    I agree, there has to be a balance, but on the otherhand, we are responsbile for a valuable community asset and have to ensure it is accessible to all. If that means using debt collectors to get items back, then that’s what it takes. Still, after all that we tell people on joining, its amazing how many of them just don’t get it.

    • Jackie on June 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm


    I try to remember that the vast majority of our customers do the right thing, love what we do, and are advocates for us in the greater community. But it almost leaves me speechless when I have conversations like the one you describe. The devil on my shoulder always wants to butt in and say “Are you a grown up? Take responsibility for your actions!”

  2. Jackie,

    The amount of times I have had to hold my tongue when I have come across the same thing….. Thanks for the reminder. The overwhelming majority of our users are awesome. Sometimes because we don’t expect it, the ones with those attitudes do, as you say, leave us speechless.


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