More Superheroes, and a Quest for Library Opinions

More Superheroes, and a Quest for Library Opinions

At the end of my somewhat grouchy post about superhero books from a couple of weeks ago. I asked commenters to add their own suggestions for superhero books that I might have missed, and got some heroic recommendations:

Which brings me to my second topic of the day: libraries, and what people want from them.

I’ve been doing time behind the reference desk at several different libraries in the last month or two, and have been thinking a lot about what makes libraries places where people want to go—whether it’s the physical comforts (spaces to read or work or let the kids crawl around) or the friendly service, or the helpful recommendations via booklists (like the Wilmette Library's) or in-person suggestions, or the rows and rows of computers with free Internet access. 

Conversely, I know several people, some of them big readers, who don’t use libraries at all; it’s not that they’re necessarily anti-library; it’s just that the library isn’t in their orbit. Sometimes they don’t like trying to find their way around what feels like an arcane organizational system, or they find the fines off-putting, or there just isn’t a nearby branch that’s convenient to them. If they want a book, they’ll buy it at a bookstore or online.

So…if you are a library enthusiast, what makes it a place you want to be? And if you aren’t, is there any particular reason? 

If you want to play another way, here’s a question from a survey I recently gave to teens at local high schools: what’s one thing you like, or don’t like, about the library? (and please let me know which it is! I got several replies from my teen participants that read simply “Quiet” or “Books”, leaving me to puzzle over whether these were likes or dislikes.)

I’d be grateful for all replies, and promise to post another follow-up.

April 30, 2008


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Sometimes I use libraries a lot. Sometimes I don't for months and months.

What I especially like about the libraries where I live (in Canada) is that I can order any book from the whole library system--all the libraries in the city--and get it delivered to any library I want, usually the library closest to me. That allows me to just go in and pick up the books I want. Which is what I usually do .

What I wish the libraries here had:
-larger spaces with bright open windows, a more relaxed atmosphere, not only with comfortable chairs (which some have), and the sense that you can talk aloud (which some have), but also a little cafe where you can get food and/or drink and eat or drink while you read. That would be ideal to me. I've only ever found one library like that here, and while I love it, it is far out of my way so I don't get there very often.

Friendly service is also important to me. There have been periods in my life when things got pretty hard, and I would forget to return library books for a while. When I finally had the energy to do so, and I 'd meet a librarian who got angry at me for that, well, it turned me off the library. Not fun.

Then there are times when I've gone into the library and had great discussions about children's books with the librarian.

What I wish existed was the ability to have library books mailed to you, and that you could mail them back. That would be pretty neat. Though I'd still want to visit the libraries, too.

Just after my first son was born I was rather sad and lonely at home, and so I decided that we would visit all the libraries in Rhode Island (something like 39 of them). The libraries I liked best were ones where a mother and a baby could just sit comfortably for a while, reading magazines and books...Even though I'm back at work now, I still value the "getting out of the house" aspect of the library more than anything, and on days when it's cold and wet, or too hot in our un airconditioned house, it is great to take the kids the library and just be somewhere else (where the utility bills are being paid by others). And there's always the hope that somehow things will have changed at home in the interim, and we will return to a sparkling clean, nicely painted and furnished home, with no legos on the floor...I also like sneaking off the library by myself, to chat with my librarian friends, blog, and get books for me. We live 4 doors down from our library, so we are lucky. Or clever, in as much as this was one reason we bought our house.

When I lived in New York City I was intimidated by the libraries there, even the smaller branches, so I would just buy paperbacks. Now that I live in a small town (and have two little kids) I use the library much more often. It's a great outing for us. We can walk or bike there, there's a nice park adjacent, and the children's area has comfortable chairs and even toys. We come home with a stack of books and usually a DVD or two. I've used the interlibrary loan too. Our library also has lots of community events like concerts, movies, lectures, and book clubs. Most of these don't end up meshing with our family's schedule but I still like the idea of them. If that makes any sense.

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