Friday, April 18, 2008

L. A. Library System Wants to Charge Patrons a Buck a Book

The Los Angeles Public Library system wants to start charging one dollar per book for transfers between libraries within the system. The library has recently had its annual budget cut because the city is running a huge deficit and it is looking for ways to raise money on its own. Good or bad idea? According to this Daily News article those against the change are becoming pretty vocal.

...the proposed $1 fee has riled library users, who have watched book collections dwindle in their branches and have come to rely on the interbranch transfer system that allows users to search the book catalog, reserve a book and have it delivered to their local library in a few days.

"When I heard about the $1 fee, I just flipped," said Kim Cooper, who started Save the L.A. Public Library with her husband, Richard Schave, to urge Villaraigosa to reject the reserve fee.
...
The library system has already had to slash its book-buying budget from $11.4million to $8.8million over the past year.

After the department was ordered to cut its budget by 5 percent earlier this year, the library also had to stop buying books from February through June.
...
Last year, users requested 1.5 million book holds. Persic said the library doesn't know how much the $1 reserve fee would generate because people would likely cut back on the number of books they reserve.
While I can sympathize with the library's problem, this plan seems to be a sure way to discourage reading. Does it make any sense to put yourself out of business for failing in your primary mission by, in a sense, pricing yourself right out of the market? I've seen children walk out of a library with two dozen short books that will last them a week or two. D0es anyone really believe that parents of small children will spend $25-$50 per month to support the reading habits of their younger children?

Personally, if my county system were to implement a similar plan, my reading habits would change. I would be less likely to take a chance on books recommended by others and would end up making fewer trips to my local branch because of the very small chance that I will ever actually find on the shelves the exact book, or books, I'm wanting to read next. Via the internet I am able to line up for exactly the books I want. They don't always arrive at my branch in a timely manner but I know that I'll eventually get them.

But I probably request over 100 books a year from the library...at a buck a book that starts to get expensive. I expect my county to use a portion of the exorbitant county tax bill I pay every year to keep my library functioning. So far, so good.

17 comments:

  1. My local public library does this very thing- and I don't use it. In other library systems, I used to frequently request books from other branches. (Maybe one out of five I read). Now I hardly ever do it, and have to really comb through my TBR lists to find a book I want to read that's at my local branch. Sometimes I drive into the next town to borrow a book rather than pay the fee! Silly, perhaps, but it really irks me that they charge for this. It's greatly cut down on how much I use the library.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh my, I'd say at least 90% of my holds are from other libraries. I would think twice about reading certain books if I knew it would put me back that much.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If I ever get access to a library ever again, I'll probably be so relieved I'll let them pull all kinds of crap, including this.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's ridiculous. I think it would be better to have fewer new materials (especially non-books) than to restrict their use so drastically. I never thought LA would be so backward.

    ReplyDelete
  5. From a librarian's standpoint, say if Jeane were to be my patron, I would work hard to keep her number of holds at a minimum. I would talk to her about alternate, substitute books, instead of asking for another one if nonfiction. Fiction? I would see I'm not ordering for my community and talk to her about likes/dislikes and order accordingly.

    I'm not sure that libraries planned in advance for these gas prices and may not have the ammount allocated in the budget, BUT a dollar a book is too high! I would reduce it to a fine amount of say 10 to 25 cents depending on the area.

    Most of these large library systems have shot themselves in the foot by making promises they wish now they didn't have to keep. The practice is to buy less books and rely on the daily van, shuffling books to and from branches, to save money. The promise is for the book to be at your local library within 1 or 2 days. A slight inconvience for the patron has become a huge headache for the library.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I definitely sympathize with the libraries, but this would hurt the people who can least afford to be hurt by it: poor kids who can't afford the $1 per book, and certainly can't afford their own books. There has to be another way.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I understand your reaction, Jeanne. All of us like to feel that we are getting our money's worth, no matter what the product, and libraries will lose a certain percentage of us if the charges for this kind of service seem out of line...and the kids get priced right out of access to books of their choice.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That's part of the problem I see, Natasha. I would be a little less "adventurous" in my reading choices, taking fewer chances on discovering new artists and the like if I had to pay a buck a chance.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bybee, you're a "special" case, for sure. I lived without a library for a while myself and I know exactly how you must be feeling these days.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's a tough choice, I suppose, Sylvia, but I would sure have no problem with fewer DVDs on the shelf in lieu of charging for branch transfers.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Good points, Maggie. I would not mind paying something for the service to help it break even...but a nice round number like a buck a book leads me to believe that they are going to make a profit on the deal and that's just not right. Public libraries usually get tax money already and I'd be willing to pay a special assessment directed at my library system if I felt that the money was really needed...and would actually get there.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I guess they didn't consider cutting spending in another area of city government? We can't possibly be expected not to subsidize a major-league, for-profit ball team! They need a stadium! The mayor needs bodyguards! And a raise!

    ReplyDelete
  13. If the borrowing fee were more like 25 cents, as Maggie suggested, I would be perfectly fine with that! I just can't bring myself to pay $1 per book.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Factotum, we can't have a bunch of pissed of LA millionaires, now can we? Sad...but true.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jeane, I understand. There's just something about that amount that crosses a psychological barrier of some sort...hard to explain.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think you're right, Maggie. For those of us of a certain age, one dollar is some kind of psychological barrier. :-)

    ReplyDelete