11 Nov

why i don’t use public libraries and how they might lure me back

Disclaimer: this post is written by Kate-the-person. Opinions are all mine and my comments here are based on my own experiences as a public library user and do not reflect the views of any organisations with which I am affiliated. I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a loooong time because I’ve felt a bit hesitant about being critical. Which is really unlike me – If I’m anything, I’m the girl who says what she thinks. I think my hesitancy here has been that on a personal level, as well as a professional level, I love libraries and I love what they stand for. I also love the libraries in my city. They are well resourced and I have nothing but fond memories of the time I spent in them as a child… Anyway, I digress… My comments here are about public libraries in general, because I use / have used more than one public library service, and they are my personal opinions only… yadda yadda.

This post has been in draft for ages… Since June, actually, when a post from Hoi prompted me to start writing it. Over the last several months, a few things have prompted me to add to this post, and to publish it today.

The first prompt for this post was watching the Twitter stream for a future libraries event many months ago. As I watched the stream, I couldn’t help thinking: can’t we just stop talking about what the future library looks like and become the library our users need right now?

The second prompt was visiting the brand new public library near my house. It is an amazing space and I can see myself spending some time in this library, particularly in the awesome kids’ section, which features funky animals that are in fact chairs, a kid-sized nook that’s like a little reading cave, and a slippery slide. We loved it!

The third thing was a #ylibrary event at State Library of Queensland last month, which I watched via a live stream while I worked on this post.

And finally, the Queensland Public Libraries Association conference is on today and I saw some talk in my Twitter feed about wifi speeds and accessibility in public libraries. You can follow the conference with the hash tag #qpla2013.

So here’s the thing- the real reason for this post. As an individual, I actually don’t use my public library. Ever. Sometimes I use it with my niece and nephew specifically to do things with and for them, but I never use them for myself. I live in a city that has awesome libraries and awesome collections and I’m intimately acquainted with how good they are because I used to work there. As a rate payer, the service I value most from my local council is the awesome library service. (In second place: fabulous parks.) I have access to some of the best libraries with the richest collections in the country… And yet… I don’t use the libraries or their online collections.

I am a firm believer in the value of public libraries. I love them. I teach my students about them with enthusiasm. I believe they have an enormous role to play in supporting the leisure and lifelong learning needs of their communities. They prepare kids for success and make an enormous contribution to the economy.

As a child and a teenager, the public library was my second home. On school holidays, I’d go to the library with my grandfather. He’d read the newspaper, and I’d ‘do research’ on whatever my current interest was. As a teenager, I went to the library after school most days. When I started working in these libraries in my 20s, I worked with the librarian who ran the story times my grandfather took me too, and with the branch librarian who patiently helped me with my assignment research. When my niece and nephew were toddlers, we borrowed books from the library as a try-before-you-buy scheme. And the twins loved going to the library, especially the one with kids’ ‘puters’. I have so many good memories of libraries and I love them because they have been an enormous part of my life.

There are two things I want from public libraries: fiction ebooks, and fast, free, unrestricted wifi (preferably wifi I can use while I sit on a comfy lounge and drink a good coffee).

To make sense of my needs as a library user, there are some things you need to know about me.

Instant gratification

First and foremost, I don’t have a lot of down time, and I don’t want to spend the down time I have browsing physical bookstores or trying to find a car park at the library. I want to spend my down time (or some of it, anyway) *reading*, not trying to get something to read. I rarely go to shopping centres, instead I buy everything from clothes to homewares online. When I want to read a book, I want to read it right then and there, and I don’t want to have to hunt to find my next read. (Difficult to please, I know!)

E only

I only read ebooks. It used to be a preference, but now it’s a rule. I prefer to read on my phone or my iPad mini. I always have them with me. It used to be that I couldn’t buy all the books I wanted to read as ebooks, and that kept me going back to the public library even when they didn’t necessarily have the ebooks I wanted – at least it was something. But things have changed and I can now get almost everything I want, when I want it, from Amazon.

Good wifi

Finally, I work from home most days to avoid a long commute. Sometimes, I want to get out of the house to work somewhere different but I don’t want to drive for at least two hours (my commute time) to work in the office. The only thing I need to take my office with me is good wifi. (A powerpoint helps too!)

The ebook issue

I stopped checking to see if the library had the books I wanted in e because the hit rate was so low (and I should note here, I am a member of several public libraries so I was routinely checking multiple collections). I just can’t be bothered looking there and then ultimately having to go back to Amazon anyway. Then there is the issue with ebooks being ‘out on loan’ (ludicrous concept!). If I’m actively seeking a book, it’s because I just finished one and I need something to read. I don’t want to wait for the book to come in, and frankly, the fact that I have to really pisses me off. It pisses me off because it demonstrates just how broken ebook distribution models are for libraries. It’s not a physical item, for crying out loud! Why should it matter if someone else is reading it? Why can’t I read it too? (Yes, I know all the answers to those questions. But your average customer doesn’t. And nor should they have to.)

This is not something the library can fix – at least not at a local level. It’s a problem that libraries need to act on collectively. Libraries need to hurry up and get active on this or they will no longer be relevant to people like me – at least not in terms of their role as content providers.

Up the game

I think there are a few places where public libraries – all public libraries – could up their game and meet the needs of customers like me.

Fuel my consumption!

The library doesn’t encourage me to use the library. It doesn’t draw me back in. It doesn’t keep me in the loop on books I might like to read (at least not based on knowledge of what I *actually* read). In short, the library doesn’t keep data about my reading habits and consequently, it can’t exploit what it knows about me to keep me coming back for more.

Amazon knows what I read: what authors, what series, what genres. Amazon emails me recommendations. I don’t even need to think about what I’m going to read next because when I log on, Amazon tells me what I might be interested in. They alert me of forthcoming titles I can preorder. In an average month, I buy a minimum of three or four books. I aim to read one a week, but even when I’m not making that quota, I still buy anything that Amazon recommends that I want to read, so they’re sitting there ready to go.

Amazon fuels my consumption. Amazon knows me. I couldn’t care less that Amazon knows my reading patterns and habits and what I buy and how much I’m likely to spend and how long it takes me to read a chapter and whether I bought Fifty Shades or Anna Karenina. But libraries assume that customers *do* care how much ‘the system’ knows about their reading habits. They don’t keep this kind of data and they don’t exploit it. I know there are many, many complex reasons that libraries are cautious with user data, and I don’t mean to trivialise these reasons. In fact I value the effort libraries put into protecting patron data.

But the reality is, I like getting my books from somewhere that knows what I read and that pushes new books to me. I don’t want to trawl for ages to find something to read next. I just want to log in and hit that one click purchase button and get reading in a flash.

Can’t the library give me the chance to opt in to a recommendation service based on my reading habits?

It’s readers’ advisory at its personalised, targeted best. Customers expect it because they can get it everywhere else but the library. Libraries need to give this some serious thought. And if they decide not to store and exploit customer data, then they need to come up with another way to hook their customers and real them back in time and again.

Unthrottle the wifi

I don’t go to physical libraries for the collection. I go for the wifi, and let’s face it, not many public libraries do a good job of wifi. Connections are throttled, there are clunky password systems in place, and access is for a fixed amount of time. Hot tip, libraries: stop worrying about how much bandwidth your customers are going to use; stop worrying about how long they’re going to sit their for; stop putting up barriers to access by requiring passwords.

Libraries are about access to information and ideas. They’re about connecting people. They’re about facilitating lifelong learning. They’re about facilitating knowledge sharing and knowledge creation and creativity. Crappy wifi is not helping libraries realise any of these visions. All of the practices we have in place to limit access and restrict connection speeds are barriers that stop customers from doing what they need (and want) to do.

Am I a lost cause?

Winning me back as a user of the online library is not going to be easy. The ebook issue is a big one, and it’s not going to be easy to solve. Publisher, distribution, purchasing, licensing, lending… All of these models are completely and utterly broken. Libraries need to collectively get loud on this, and fast. Ultimately I’d love to get my ebooks from the library. I’d save $50 a month at least. But right now, I’d rather spend the $50 on a delivery model that meets my needs than save it and waste time – a rarer commodity – looking for, and ultimately not finding, the ebooks I want at the online library.

I can’t see the library collecting and exploiting data about me to offer personalised recommendations, the way Amazon does – but I really wish they would. I guess I could get around this – I could get my recommendations elsewhere… From GoodReads for example. But I want integration. I want to click straight through and borrow the book that’s recommended. I don’t want to jump through hoops and go round in circles. The fact is people like me will pay for books to avoid the hoop jumping. If public libraries don’t get onto this, they are going to lose people like me.

Getting me back into the physical library won’t be so difficult. I just need somewhere to plug my laptop in and fast, unrestricted wifi that I don’t have to jump hurdles to access. It doesn’t even have to be free. I’d pay for the wifi if I had to (though obviously I’d prefer not to). I know wifi is often restricted to avoid racking up a big bill, but perhaps we need to rethink how much funding we pour into this part of the business. Libraries are *information organisations*. Surely they should be hubs of good connectivity? In many cities I’ve visited, I can get better wifi with less barriers at McDonalds than the local public library (and I’m not just talking about guest access here – I’ve looked at access policies around the place and these issues exist for library members too). That is a *big* problem.

As a non-library user, I’m not a lost cause. But I am greedy. And I want more.

[PS. I feel the need to add a postscript… I edited about 600 words out of this post in which I waxed lyrical about comfy armchairs and decent coffee. The upshot of those 600 words was that I think the perfect public library looks a lot like the ground floor of State Library of Queensland. The only thing it’s missing is a service that delivers your coffee so you don’t have to pack up and go get it.]

34 thoughts on “why i don’t use public libraries and how they might lure me back

  1. I don’t care about coffee or wifi – I want all the books! I do still check my public library accounts for ebooks before I buy, and then I buy. Time is super limited for me and convenience trumps it all.

    An anecdote: I was talking to someone who is an avid reader who adores her Kindle. She relies on coffee shop wifi to buy her books via her Kindle. Libraries? What libraries? It did make me wonder how her local public library could serve her…

    • Interesting – and not surprising I guess. We do have a real problem with marketing to people who don’t use public libraries. There should be ads on every bus and train in every city, advertising ebook collections at public libraries. But public libraries never have any marketing budget. Vicious circle.

      • All too true about the vicious circle being that shrinking budgets drive down personalized service. It’s hard to compete when you serve a community where police and firefighters are being cut (!) But there is a connection between personalized library service to children and adults and safer more stable communities, and I think the poorer (in money) your community of service the stronger the correlation is. Still, it’s a difficult “sell” with both public officials and the public. That’s why I’d like to see libraries and library associations partner with schools, social service agencies and maybe associations of municipal governments to exchange ideas on how to include libraries in the solution for stabilizing hard-hit communities.

  2. I only visit the public library physically to drop off someone else’s books. Or…. to renew my library card once every n years so I can borrow ebooks! This was a bit annoying as I was forced to visit in person to renew the card. Nothing has changed, I have not moved address since 1985.

    I might be a bigger user of the public library if I didn’t work in an academic library of course. There’s only so much library-time a person needs.

    On the idea of opt-in recommendation data – what if the library catalogue + overdrive apps/interface could be integrated with LibraryThing (or similar) more closely. User gets option on a read-by-read basis to add a title to their LibraryThing collection. Books you hate could be left out of recommendations data – or your low rating could be used to actively avoid similar titles. And the Library is not retaining your reading data – just facilitating you volunteering it to a 3rd party.

    • That could definitely work Peta.

      You could be right about library-time, except in my case I never spend any time in any library! 😉

      I’m going to let my public library membership lapse. I just got my renewal notice and I was so frustrated that the only way to renew was to go into a library… So I’ve decided to just not bother. I wonder how many other people libraries will lose this way?

      • I wonder if lots of people experience physical distance of their library as an issue. You may live in a area where there’s lots of sprawl and driving a few blocks can take a half-hour. I know of some mega-suburbs like this. I also know that for many people lack of public transportation can be an issue (I live and work in Metro Detroit). Fortunately my hometown library is a five-minute drive from my house through a pleasant traditional downtown, or a 20-minute walk through a pleasant traditional downtown. I’m luck that way, but I think sprawl and reliance on cars is part of the problem. (I guess I’m showing my political stripes, oh well).

        On the other hand, I can understand why you would need to physically come into the library to renew your membership (where I live most libraries require local residents to do this only once every three years). I just don’t see any other way they can verify that you are who you say you are than by matching your up-to-date driver’s license or state ID with you. Maybe in the future there’ll be capabilities to do this over Skype or some similar service, but I don’t think graphical and privacy issues are sophisticated enough to allow this yet.

      • I work in a public library, and the reasons for an in person visit to renew your card are to make sure that everything is current, i.e., address, phone, contact info. etc. We also want to make sure that someone else didn’t steal your card to appropriate library material to abscond with and you would be left having to pay for the replacement.
        But I don’t see why a form couldn’t be filled out online to update
        information? Some library card do have a patron’s picture, also some libraries update to new cards with key chain cards. There are all sorts of reasons. Hope this helps.

    • I’m pretty sure that librarything offers that as a service – for a price. There’s your real vicious circle – if people don’t use the libraries they don’t get funded and so have no money to get in the services etc that would pull in users.

      • I’ve been out of libraries for a few years now Simone so I’m not entirely sure what LibraryThing offers now… But I don’t think LibraryThing added any personalisation options to the OPAC in the past. Rather I think they exploited their existing data set with a focus on titles and topics, rather than individual preferences. I should investigate…

  3. This was a really interesting article! You bring up a lot of excellent points, particularly wifi access (the library where I work thankfully does not restrict access, hooray!) I wanted to address one point you brought up – ebook access. I agree that the fact that an ebook can be “out” is ridiculous and that libraries should work to change it. The truth is libraries are working to change it…it’s the publishers who are stopping us, and basically not listening. They have set up an arbitrary set of rules to reduce the “competition” that libraries circulating ebooks for free present, and each publisher has its own set of them. For example, some publishers let a library buy an ebook that goes out of circulation after a certain amount of time, then you buy another. While it’s in circulation, it has infinite checkouts. That’s…ok…. Others require that the library repurchase the ebook after it’s gone out a certain number of times, say 50, after which the library has to buy the book again. The rationale behind this is that after a real book goes out 50 times it would probably be broken and we’d be buying a new hard copy, and they expect us to go along with it like it makes sense (and 50 is on the high end, I think one does like 26). Other publishers still either won’t allow libraries to purchase & circulate bestsellers and new books as ebooks, or simply don’t deal with libraries at all. They are VERY stubborn, and see libraries as a threat, not a boon (despite repeated examples and proof given to them showing that library usage DRIVES UP a person’s spending on books). And the only people who can really negotiate with them are the biiig organizations like the ALA, maybe a large system like NYPL, because individual libraries or even library networks are just too small to make a difference to them.

    • Yup, you’re right – it’s the publishers and the distribution models that are broken and lone libraries don’t have a loud enough voice to negotiate different arrangements. In Australia, the broken model is even more broken than in other countries: we have a severely restricted range of content available to buy because of geographic distribution rights restrictions. I think it’s time for libraries to get loud collectively – to form some kind of coalition and force change by putting our money where our mouths are. Perhaps it’s even time to stop buying ebooks – to withdraw our support for broken models? I’m not sure what the solution is but like you, I know that lone voices aren’t going to force a solution.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Pingback: 3 simple ways to increase public library membership | Library Dust

  5. Interesting blog which illustrates how everybody wants something different from their library and why it’s so hard to please everyone.

    I am a school librarian, which means I’m surrounded by books – fiction to read and information to browse – and as my students go up to age 18 (not to mention supporting staff reading) then I have adult as well as teenage titles in my library. But I still use my public library. I’m not interested in wifi or ebooks; what I like to do is browse, that’s my downtime, my way of spending a couple of hours of me-time, relaxing. Sure, I also do this in bookshops and online via places like Amazon but there’s nothing like wandering aimlessly around a library just to see what catches your attention.

    Of course, I also use it for specific reasons … I borrow a lot of travel guides when I’m planning my next trip, this enables me to assess them before I decide which one I want to buy. I belong to a book group and I borrow the latest thing we’re reading on CDs so that I can listen to the story whilst I’m driving to and from work. I borrow books to supplement whatever I’m working on or what my latest hobby happens to be. If I’m recommended a book that really isn’t suitable to get for work then I’ll reserve it from my library – and I’m quite happy waiting for it as I have a HUGE to-read pile to keep me going until it arrives. I rarely buy books as, once read, I tend not to keep them … and I go through so many that it would cost me a fortune! Then there’s magazines … my library has a wide-ranging selection which I would never buy but am interested enough in them to borrow and read.

    And these are just a few examples of the way I use my public library … completely different reasons from the writer … but no less valid for me as a library user.

    • Thanks for your comment – it’s a really good illustration of the complexity of the problem. Yup, we do all want different things. Most public libraries have got your needs sorted, but they had *my* needs sorted with the same model a decade ago. Our customers evolve the way they interact with information so libraries need to evolve too. They can continue to meet your needs, but they also need to be relevant for people who want to interact with the library in different ways. There are more and more people like me who prefer ebooks and who want good wifi, and many of us are now non-users. I think core business for public libraries is supporting leisure and lifelong learning, and different people need different support. We definitely can’t be all things to all people, but we do need to make sure we don’t make public libraries irrelevant by letting our service models stagnate.

      PS. I keep saying ‘we’ even though I don’t work in libraries anymore.

    • I agree that there are plenty of us who still take out physical materials and are happy to sit on a waitlist for the privilege of borrowing items for free. I am an avid ebook reader, but don’t check out my library’s digital collection because it isn’t compatible with my Kindle and the selection is poor (for the reasons listed in others’ comments).

      The thing that surprised me about this comment was the mention of browsing. I rarely see anyone browsing the shelves in my city’s branches. There’s a really great hold system in place, so it’s common for patrons to just request books and movies online. It makes me wonder whether a warehouse for less popular library materials might be a better model, so the space freed up in branches could be used for community gatherings, library programs, and comfy spaces for everyone who’s just there for WiFi access.

  6. * A single tear rolls down my cheek* Sniff
    Thanks for this great post, I’ll be linking to it and forwarding it to as many open ears as I know. I’m a librarian who loves his job but is frustrated with the rate of change. Libraries desperately need to listen to people who don’t use the library, not just to the people who do. There are so many great ideas floating around, making the job more interesting than it’s been in a couple of thousand years.
    Thanks again

    • Thanks for your comment Richard. I know that frustration. When I worked in libraries, I felt like all I did was bang my head up against a very hard brick wall. The pace of change is slow, and it’s really easy to lose sight of what we achieve, in terms of enacting change. When I left my last job, I stopped and took stock of what I’d achieved. I wrote a list of all the things, big and small, that I’d managed to implement or evolve. I love the idea of done lists. Try recording the things you do achieve at regular intervals. It’s a great way of celebrating successes and seeing patterns and places you can capitalise on momentum and make bigger changes.

      Good luck! Don’t lose heart! Libraries need people like you!

  7. I’m also quite pro data gathering and personalised marketing, except I think Amazon are awful at it. And I mean truly dreadful. I buy quite a lot of rare Graham Greene plays from Amazon marketplace and now all Amazon do is suggest I might like to try something like Brighton Rock. Of course I’ve read Brighton Rock! No-one would suggest I read that.

    And although we all know this is just the system shuffling data about, doing keyword matches and clumsy customer analytics, we do need to be as critical as if it were a human. Because otherwise we’re settling for stupidity in a service just because we know it’s by a computer. This is where libraries have a far greater advantage than Amazon. The computers at Amazon (and probably the people) don’t know obvious things like that a user who is reading a rare book by an author probably doesn’t need to be recommended that author’s most famous novel. Librarians do know this. They can interact with their users and filter out targeted ‘campaigns’ by using their intelligence. In fact, it would likely be one of the few situations where that kind of personalised marketing would actually work for the majority of people; in the case of Amazon it’s just a constant barrage of embarrassing mistakes which are only forgiven because they’re made by a computer.

    Also, although I love the idea that libraries would forget about passwords, and not worry about bandwidth, in practice could easily end up being a bit of a mess. Any service that is providing Internet needs to worry about bandwidth, because it’s a finite resource. Over throttling isn’t good, but not worrying about it at all would just lead to an unusable service. Similarly, I don’t know of any decent public wifi that doesn’t have some kind of login system. Certainly libraries can get rid of all that, at the same time they can probably get rid of having to check out books, or time limits on book loans, or having to have a library account to take out a book. All of these things are blocking users from doing what they want to, but they can also be considered necessary.

    And yeah, current eBook lending is ridiculous. I don’t understand why it would ever be considered something that should be provided by individual physical library services when it’s all online.

    • Interesting comments about Amazon’s personalisation… Granted, I do see a lot of Fireman Sam related recommendations based on my buying Fireman Sam toys, but I have to say my ebook recommendations via Amazon are bang on (and I don’t look at any of the others). That’s probably because my reading interests aren’t particularly sophisticated! 😉 The recommendations I act on tend to be alerts about new titles by authors I’ve read or new books that are similar to others I’ve read. But libraries don’t even provide this basic level of personalised recommendation. I see a role for readers’ advisory services that are human mediated, for sure, but I think some simple measures like recommending new books from authors customers read would go a long way. Imagine what libraries could do with the combined smarts of librarians and a bit of data!

      I’m not objecting to some throttling of wifi connections but I do object to the severe throttling I see in many public libraries. Once place I could frequent for wifi access throttles the connection so severely I can’t even run an email client. I have seen IT departments up in arms about the amount of bandwidth being used by public library branches, but to my mind, high usage is a good thing. I think we need to think about how budgets are allocated so we can redress this issue.

      As for login systems: I do know of and have used decent public wifi without a login system. The login systems I see in public libraries around here involve collecting a paper receipt from the reference desk with a temporary username and password, and you have to go back for another after a period of time. Even allowing customers to authenticate using their membership credentials would be an improvement for many users (although not for visitors).

      Thanks for your comment! Great to have some discussion around this and particularly interested in your perspective on Amazon’s recommendations.

      • Fair enough, login systems can vary – my local library have wifi that you connect to and just use a username and password to login so that they have some record of who is accessing it, and they can bring up the usual disclaimers/terms and conditions etc.

        In terms of throttling, I mention it as my own experience of public wifi in general has often been cursing that connections AREN’T throttled, on a user basis. When it’s going particularly slowly it’s normally because someone’s using a disproportionate amount of the bandwidth, while I’m just trying to use webmail or something.

        And yes, you’re right about what libraries could do in terms of using user data (on a strict opt-in basis). And as I say, libraries have a far greater ability for this than Amazon and others.

        A lot of the inability to not move forward is put down to funding, but it’s often just a lack of management at government and local council level. A central national eBook lending facility for example would be far cheaper than individual ones. And at local councils they don’t have IT staff dedicated to library development. To set up something like alerts for new books by authors the user has read before would probably be the work of an afternoon, it’s just never done because there’s no connection between departments.

  8. I’m guessing that you only read fiction?. if you only read books, than it’s either cheap fiction, free ebooks, or you have quite a lot of money. I read mostly history and the cost of reading the books I want to read as ebooks is pretty much the same as buying the book. Rather than paying £15.00+, I borrow for free from my local public library. I ,might also add that I buy a lot of books, and few are available as ebooks.

    • I have to say my reading interests aren’t particularly sophisticated! 😉 For leisure reading, I read fiction exclusively, so yes, ebooks are accessible in terms of cost. Though, in Australia, not in terms of what I can actually buy with the current geographic distribution rights situation.

      Interesting comment about the costs being the same for e and p: I don’t actually mind paying the same because I think the cost of producing them is similar. I wouldn’t say no to getting them free from the library though. 😉

  9. A few things you can do:

    1) Lobby for higher taxation.
    2) Lobby for companies (say, McDonalds, Amazon) to pay more tax so that public services can provide the services they offer to the same standard.
    3) Once successful, lobby for higher spending on libraries.
    4) Once successful in those three previous steps, lobby for better services.
    5) Stop using Amazon – a company that is less interested in “access to information and ideas” and more interested in controlling access to information and ideas which, in turn, damages public libraries.

    Seriously though, if you want better libraries, argue for both higher taxation and for large corporations to pay their full share of taxation (how much does Amazon pay there?) then, when you’ve done that, lobby your local authority (councils, local government) for better public services with increased funding for libraries. It’s a long hard road, but if we hadn’t allowed a low-tax, small government ideology to ingrain itself across the world, it would have been so much easier. Lobbying libraries to do more won’t achieve much. It will just mean they cut funding in one area to provide extra facilities (faster, free wifi) in another. Amazon are as much a part of the problem as local government. So lobby them both 🙂 (Which, in Amazon’s case, may mean threatening to withdraw your custom I’m afraid!)

    Btw regarding this:

    But libraries assume that customers *do* care how much ‘the system’ knows about their reading habits. They don’t keep this kind of data and they don’t exploit it.

    To be fair, I don’t know what the situation is where you are, but over here (the UK) they do keep that kind of data they just don’t exploit it.

    • Excellent comment! You’re right: I should be lobbying. And I will do more. But…

      My local public library service is well funded as are many of the others nearby. Granted, it’s been a few years since I’ve worked in libraries but I’m still pretty well versed about what’s happening in libraries… I think! But I think public libraries are still heavily invested in doing the things they’ve always done and there is certainly room for rethinking services and service priorities. This industry is obsessed with talking about the future and what the future library might look like, but we’re still operating yesterday’s library! I really think the crux of the problem is that we’re still standing in the past… It’s almost an ideological thing. I know funding is part of it, but I’m not sure we’d fix the problem if there was an injection of funding, because it runs deeper than that. But I’ll still do my bit on the lobbying front!

      With regard to data: I think in Australia it varies. I’ve worked places where it was kept and places where it wasn’t. I think the latter may be more common.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

    • Hello Ian
      Tax dodging corporations need sorting out, for sure, but having to change the mindset of government and expect them to spend the proceeds on libraries just to get free, faster, unrestricted wifi – well – we’ll all be dead by then, if it even happens. I think there are things you can do now to change the situation. Form campaign groups to demonstrate why wifi access is important to communities, investigate different funding options even sponsorship, partnerships with local universities or start up tech companies. Where I live there are 25 locations with free wifi provided by EU funding and the company that manages it would be happy to install free wifi in library buildings but no one’s asked!

  10. Interestingly, quite a few of the larger library systems in the US are moving to Bibliocommons, which does have some librarything/goodreads type features. Mine hasn’t launched yet, so I don’t have a lot of hands-on experience, but it does seem to be something that public libraries are willing to let their patrons opt-in for, at least. And if anyone can solve the e-books problem, that would be amazing. Why can’t it be pay-per-use with unlimited copies? So frustrating.

  11. The only statement with which I have an issue is this:
    “stop worrying about how much bandwidth your customers are going to use”
    That’s all well and good if your ISP doesn’t limit the amount of bandwidth you can consume in a month. Here in the U.S., our local cable Internet provider limits us to 300GB per month, after which we have to pay exhorbitant fees for each 10GB over that. So, as stewards of taxpayer money, we have to limit that in our community due to people who come in with multiple devices (one patron in particular brings a smart phone, a laptop, an Nvidia Shield, AND a PS Vita at the same time!) to download movies and games for free. A standard, DVD-quality movie (420p) is going to be about 3.5 GB of data. Just over 28 movies of that length puts us over our 300 GB limit. Today’s big-title games are much the same way, and some of them run over 8GB! So with folks like that (he’s not the only patron with multiple devices in use at the same time) using our open wifi and electricity, we need to limit it in that way.

    • Point taken – I agree, bandwidth hogging is an issue and there does need to be some throttling and some limits to prevent this kind of activity. But the throttling I’ve experienced is ridiculous. There is a base level of service we need to provide and throttling the connection so that you can’t even run a Twitter client is overkill. I also have no problem with concurrent device limits. There needs to be a sensible approach to this. Because with the extent of throttling that I’ve seen in some places, they may as well not provide wifi at all.

      That is an enterprising patron you have there, by the way!

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  15. I’m a library job-hunter at the moment. I appreciated your article, though late to read it. E-books are a big thing lately, but some of us can only stare at a computer screen for so long and prefer ink-and-paper books. That is an individual preference, and I can see how not having old eyes could make e-books an easy choice. I will say an ink-and-paper book is accessible when I have no place to plug in.
    I also have to agree with the gentleman from here in America that at least some of our libraries are limited in wifi options, based on funding (a major issue for many libraries here). It also may depend on the policies and practices of the city where the library is located.

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