Sunday, July 06, 2008

My dream library

I had dinner with an old friend who is still working in the trenches of a library. When I met her, I worked at the Cute Little Library. She left the state before I began to work at the Library from Heck (13 fun-filled years of heavy pain killer use). We started to speculate about what the dream library would be like.

1. It would have all the books you read when you were young, all the books you've been meaning to read for years, nice clean copies of classics, multiple copies of the book of the moment. When the moment ended, the extra copies would be discarded, not left sitting on the shelf like wallflowers at a dance. Whatever you wanted to read would be there when you wanted it. Books on tape. Books in braille. Books, books, books, and nothing else. See #3.

2. No ranting and raving by the homeless. The homeless could sit quietly in their chairs as long as they kept their clothes on, well, most of their clothes. They also would not smell of anything but soap. Originally I wanted to bar the homeless, but I realized that they were part of the library scene. Where else would they go? No one wants them around except the librarians, bless their hearts.

3. No DVDs, CDs, computer games or comic books. They can get that garbage elsewhere, and do. If literacy ever becomes a lost art, blame these media.

4. No Internet. The crazies who want to look at porn sites can jolly well buy their own computers. People shouldn't do what these folks are doing in public places. Need I draw a picture?

5. No cell phones, pagers, iPods, or other devices that deafen young people and cause their brains to rot. No one would be talking to an unseen Other or muttering to themselves except the librarians.

6. Only nice adults, nice teenagers, and nice children would be allowed within the doors of the Dream Library.

7. People would not have heart attacks or seizures or just plain fall down.

That's as far as we got.


Paul Smith Jr. said...

3. No DVDs, CDs, computer games or comic books. They can get that garbage elsewhere, and do. If literacy ever becomes a lost art, blame these media.

You're so right on this one. I support public libraries so that people will read classics and learn, not so they don't have to pay Blockbuster rental fees to watch "Norbit".

dick stanley said...

Ouch. Glad I never followed my dream of being a librarian. Journalism was bad enough. I thought. You must also have gotten tired of having your funding cut. Our pols always hit the library when it's time to "cut the budget."

dick stanley said...

P.S. It never occurred to me that the porn watchers at the library were playing pocket pool. But, unlike the main, which I never visit anymore, our branch has no Net connections.

jzdro said...


Thanks for the itemized ideals. Here are a couple others that have occurred to me:

8. The books are never moved around to different shelves. When you want something, you walk in, go to the spot, and there's the book. No rearranging nonsense.

9. There are rocking chairs everywhere, with golden pools of light from real lamps.

10. You swipe your credit card for so many volumes for so many days. If you keep something over time, you get charged more. If you bring them back early, you get a credit. If it's too expensive to to do it this way with regular commercial credit card companies, then set up a library-held system of accounts with microcredits and microdebits. It's simple and cheap. Deadbeats get their accounts cancelled and their real credit cards charged for overage and of course for lost or damaged books.

11. For an extra nickel, the librarian, who is nice, and who keeps your stuff safe when you leave it behind in the library, hands you a printout of every book you've got and when it's due.

Julie Z.

miriam said...

Good suggestions from everyone. Deadbeats do get their accounts canceled now, and my local library gives me a printout when I check out books.

Tat said...

I'm a reader since the age 3.5, library user - since 5yo. And I gotta tell you: I feel lost in American libraries. Who the hell all those people on the shelves? How to discern American classics from Foreign classics from European Antiquity writers from Orientan Antiquity? The writers from the 20's from the sentimental Romance crap? They all are just stacked alphabetically, according to the numerical system that doesn't say anything useful to me, a reader. It only works if I already know a writer's name I'm looking for; but what if I'm not? What if I have a vague idea in mind that I'd like for my weekend reading someone resembling Collette, only American - what should I do?

So in my dream library the books are arranged by thematical principle, not numerically.

off-top: I finally said goodbye to LJ and started a new blog,, on a Wordpress platform. You're welcome to visit.

miriam said...

Tat: Congratulations on your new website--I'll be a regular visitor.

Let me explain the DDC--once again. Non-fiction is assigned numbers and these books are shelved according to the progression of the numbers. Fiction is sometimes all lumped together, sometimes separated into categories such as mysteries. Readers seem to prefer the categories, but I guess the librarians hope the mystery readers will be attracted to the other fiction. It doesn't always work.

There are databases which recommend books; I can't remember what they are, but generally you can put in the name Colette and the database can suggest a similar author or authors.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the explanation, Miriam.
I only once worked in the school library (in 9th grade, as an extra-curr. activity - it was that or to assist a gym teacher!), and that summer was the most peaceful and systematic in my teenage life.
I'm trying to remember how the organization combined categories parallel to the alphabetical.

I just did the google search, in Russian, and now it all comes back to me!
It was based on the series of numbers we printed on the frontispis (sorry, don't remember the English term) at the upper left corner according to the catalog; something that looked like 380.005:20.69 or such, and meant 1) author or general category (alphabetically) and then subcategories within. Something like "Balzac, Honore - French Literature, XIX cent, Eugenie Grande", so on so on. This way all French Literature was within certain bookcase, in alphabetical order. And I always knew where to look for the naughty stuff!
I think this system was called UDC, but not sure.

Now, about the "Mystery"; how is it organized in American libraries - is a mystery to me, btw. Why in some cases Westlake is been put in "Fiction", and sometimes he's in "Mystery" - I've no idea (it's not tied to the content, both cases - mystery novels). Poe, for instance - "mystery" or "short stories"? So on, so on.

Sorry to rant like that, but this topic has being brewing for quite some time - and I didn't know there is a valve I could vent to!

I'll look forward to see you stopping by @my blog.

miriam said...

I have no idea how catalogers deal with fiction, but lots of books we would formerly have called mysteries come with the subtitle ...a novel I guess they go by what the publishers say.

Bookstores seem to share the mystification. I have to look twice for everything in my local B&N.