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To join or not to join?

I have a terrible, dirty secret. One that will make some librarians gasp in despair, and others maybe will feel relieved that they're not alone.

You see, I'm not actually a member, or user of public libraries.

There, I said it!

In fact, the only time I've been a member of a public library was at Uni, when I joined the local public library...and never used it. As a child, my Mum was a librarian in the local branch, and she just borrowed out books for me on her ticket, so we never got around to getting me a readers ticket. In secondary school, I used the school library, and sometimes the local library, with Mum still borrowing books on my behalf.

Now, as an adult, what I do is go to the local charity shops, buy a pile of whatever books from there that take my fancy at £1 each, read them, then give them back for resale. This means I give to charity twice over, once with the sale to me, and again with the donation back to them to resell. Also, I'll have an occasional shop at Amazon, buying enough of the £3 paperbacks to get free shipping, reading them, then again, giving them to the charity shops. I very rarely keep any of the books I buy, due to both space issues, and a knowledge that it'll be many years before I've forgotten enough of the contents to be able to read them again without thinking "I know what happens next".

I don't have any dependants, my money is entirely my own to spend as I see fit, so I don't feel that spending £15 to £20 a month or so on books is extortionate, although I realise there could be many people who would think spending that much on books regularly is insane.

As someone who isn't addicted to a particular author, reads fast but hates deadlines (ie return dates), tends to choose books to pick up based initially on their spine art, and is constantly fighting a book hoarding instinct, is there really any reason for me to use public libraries?

What could persuade me to switch from my buying and sending to charity habit, to joining and using a public library? Purely in relation to books - I'm aware public libraries have a lot more than just books in them, but I have my own computer and internet access, and don't want to join any sort of groups, so it would have to be the books that would tempt me in.

Am I a bad librarian for not being a member or user of my local library?


Jennie, you have simply GOT to get yourself along to your local library and fill out a membership form. Doesn't matter if you don't intend to use the library regularly, just join up as a symbol of support!

Public libraries are still judged partly on their membership figures so I always try to urge all of my friends (including virtual ones) to become members. It won't cost you anything to join but you'll be making a huge investment in the future of public library service provision, which will benefit society as a whole. Obviously, not you alone, but all of us together - there's strength in numbers after all!

Go on, do it today, support your local library! :-)
Christine Rooney-Browne
Scott said…
confess that despoite working in public libraraies for almost 10 years, I had not been a member of a library in 8 until a couple of months ago. I hang my head in shame no longer.
stupidgirl_no1 said…
I've not been a member of a public library since uni (ie 10 years). It's for much the same reasons, although I also get and give books through freecycle so it doesn't cost me anything! My current job isn't quite as librarianishy so I am now having more personal time when I feel inclined to curl up with a book so maybe I should join up, although need to read backlog I've collected first so that will take a while!
Jennie said…
But Christine, would it not be worse for libraries to have membership figures with a high number of members who don't use, than have fewer members, but higher per-person usage?
I would join--another source of free books is rarely a bad thing.

Personally, I'm a voracious reader and while I could probably buy cheaply second hand copies of many of the books I read, I love getting new stuff from my favorite authors, grabbing knitting patterns, or tracking down something I'd never spend the money on. For me--it's the browsing option, all kinds of topics and authors are there and free. (And it doesn't hurt that I work in a public library)

I didn't use a public library except for the summers while I did my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Getting my NYPL library card after that was like Christmas. I put books on hold like crazy and dropped into the branch once a week to replenish my supply (subway reading). You might look into their online catalog and using it more in that respect.

The best for me is a chance to branch out and read beyond what I would buy--for what I will pay for and what I actually end of up reading often is very different.
Katie said…
Interesting stuff, Jennie. I've been inspired to blather on a little in my own blog! Should librarians join their public library?

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