13 11 2012

When I was in elementary school I found out the hard way that the New York Public Library only allows patrons to have thirty books out at one time. I knew my librarian by name and we always enjoyed seeing each other. We still do. Downsizing to the RV involved selling and donating about 1,000 titles from our bookshelves.

I like books.

The Austin Public Library labels books on hold using the requesting patron’s last name. When I head over to the hold shelf I find my last name (and first initial) on a piece of paper sticking out my requested book. Seems reasonable, right? Not at all! Let’s say you come from a conservative religious family and want to take out Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide For Teens. That book will be on the shelf right next to your mom’s copy of Evangelism For Dummies. Not cool.

I live about 500 feet away from my local library

I live about 500 feet away from my local library

The NYPL does it right. They label books on hold using the last four digits of patrons’ library card numbers, affording patrons the anonymity that they deserve.

I have been in touch with the administration of the Austin Public Library for months now, pushing for a shift to the NYPL system. The first hint of progress came in October when I was told that a branch was selected for a one-month pilot of the new system. Fantastic!

Then the news came in: the pilot was a success, with patron and library personnel both favoring the change. That was a major win, but the big challenge was going to come in getting senior administration onboard.

After spending a few weeks in close contact with those involved in the decision-making process I just received the following note:

“We are anticipating a system-wide roll-out of this change in the labeling of holds in early December.”

Yes! I’m excited to walk over to the library in December and smile at that big shelf full of anonymously labeled books.

posted by yair




10 responses

13 11 2012

Great story! They hold our books alphabetically here too. I never even thought about the problem that could create before.

For many years when I was growing up, we lived two doors down from the library. I practically lived there. And my parents would have died if they’d had any idea what all I was reading! Heck, I pretty much got my sex education there (which is a good thing…cause there wasn’t anyone else taking on that job).

23 11 2012

Sex education? Oh, my! Don’t say that too loud, someone might hear you.

14 11 2012

Thank you for caring enough to take action and congrats on making a difference!

23 11 2012

Thanks, Carol!

14 11 2012

That is awesome, not sure I would have thought of that, but good for you for following up and helping them make the change…

23 11 2012

Thank you!

18 11 2012

Hmmm the Arlington,VA library does the same thing with listing your last name — you should come over to DC area and fix a couple of libraries here too 🙂

23 11 2012

Come on, you fix it!

21 11 2012

Ours does alpha, too, with an interesting twist: they place the spines down so the title of the book doesn’t show. A slip is printed and inserted into the pages of the book (like a bookmark) so it is just visible. A self-checkout machine is nearby, so no one else sees your titles when you check out.

You wouldn’t believe the number of questions the librarians get because people cannot find “their” alphabetically sorted books. I can’t imagine what would happen if they had to look for their selections by number.

Perhaps you could offer this suggestion as one they could implement TODAY, until they can implement the changes system-wide. Best of all, it’s fast and free.

23 11 2012

The systemwide changes will be implemented in a couple of weeks. Weirdly enough, I can see people being able to find numbers better than letters.

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