Friday, May 13, 2005

Supporting your local library

Wanna make sure the library has books YOU like? Make a bequest. That is, give them some money and include strings.

Now as I'll probably say way too many times, not all libraries follow the same internal rules. But we're almost all short of cash. And with that cash, we have to buy books and newspapers and magazines and microfilm and audiobooks and... Basically, we have to try to have something for everyone in our community, which means we won't completely satisfy anyone.

There are two ways most folk try for getting "their" books in the library. Asking, and donating the book.

I assure you that if you ask us to buy a particular book (or cd or video or...) there's a fair chance we will - as long as we think it'll be used by more than just you. That last can be nasty. See, what happens is that most of us really like a particular author or genre or subject. And those of you who ask are surprisingly few and far between. So if we bought everything for which there was a request, we'd be extraordinarily unbalanced - spending our money on a small group of authors and genres and subjects with nothing left over.

Donating the book runs into other problems. Far too often the book that's donated is used. If it's not used, then quite often its paperback or it's the cheapest printing. See, when we buy books we like to have them last for several readers. That's why we prefer library binding, and if we can't have that we prefer hardback to paperback. But there's a way. Even better, it'll save you money and skip most of the difficulties.

Make a bequest. Give the library some money and attach strings. Now, there are some libraries that'll tell you "no strings". But if you give me $10 and say it's to be used to purchase and get onto the shelves a copy of, oh, the latest Eric Flint novel (to pick an example) then I'm going to use it for that - I HAVE to. Even better (for PR reasons if not simple courtesy and personal ethics) I'm going to put a little bookplate that notes it's in the library due to a bequest from you, and last but not least you're going to get told when it gets on the shelf. Heck, if you ask me, I'll flag it so you're the first reader.

Now, let me put out a couple of reality checks before I go. If you give me the money as part of a subscription to OUI magazine, I'm going to decline. Most libraries will. Likewise, if you give me one dollar as a bequest to purchasing the entire writings of Isaac Asimov (all umpty hundred novels and anthologies and so forth) there's a pretty good chance I'm going to politely suggest that we can apply it to one but that'll pretty well use up your bequest - to which title's purchase would you like to contribute. (Hey - a dollar's a dollar. And given that we at my library get a bit less than $1.50 per capita going toward the purchase of materials you're darn near doubling your share. Rein your aspirations in, yes. Tell you to go away till you're serious? Ha.)

Anyway, I thought I'd mention it. It's the best way I know to ensure the book YOU want in your library is in your library. And just think - you can always direct your friends to the "Me Collection" at your local library.


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