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.
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