The government hates my public library but I love it. Look how brilliant it was today. I’d gone in to pick up two books I’d ordered (online) but found I hadn’t brought my library card with me. So I approached the desk. “I don’t suppose there’s any way…”
No problem, as I know my library card number by heart (luckily I have an easily memorised number) and, obviously, I know my address. With a smile the librarian processed my loans, told me to “Read this one first, because there’s a waiting list for that title,” reminded me of others I have on order and sent me happily on my way. Note (as I’m sure you know) that I could reserve the books online (on the library’s easily navigated website), having looked them up online (you don’t even need exact details: come close to the title or author name and the system suggests likely answers), and I can choose to pick the books up from any library in the area. As renewal date approaches I’ll get an automatic reminder to either bring a book in or, if no one’s waiting for that title, I can renew it online too. Oh, I can order audio books, and there’s a big selection of ebooks I can download too. Everything you could want, in fact.
When I was collecting my books today a dozen or so young children were buzzing around the children’s shelves. They’d either just heard or were about to hear a story read aloud to them. A couple of people the other end were looking at reference books, and several others were using the library’s computers. Maybe, as I do, they were using their library card to give themselves free access to the DNB and other Oxford references, or the Times Digital Archive, or a storehouse of 19th century newspapers or ones from the last thirty years or so, or various other things including a vast selection of Naxos music tracks. (I use these facilities from home.)
All this for free. I suppose that’s why the government hates it.
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