Tomes' time might be up at Newport Beach library
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In a sign of the times, Newport Beach is considering closing the city's original library and replacing it with a community center that would offer all the same features — except for the books.
Instead of a reference librarian, patrons would be greeted by a kiosk equipped with video-calling software that would allow them to speak with employees elsewhere. And books — when ordered — would be dropped off at a locker for pickup.
So Newport Beach is weighing a Netflix-like system in which readers could order books and then pick them up from lockers at an "electronic library," a 2,200-square-foot room with a central fireplace and a kiosk where patrons could select titles online.
Honestly, this is how my local branch library (the only one I typically visit) already works in from my point of view. They have a decent amount of books, but they just never seem to have any of the books I actually want. I have checked out maybe a dozen books in the last year, and every one was at a different branch/branches (even when they had multiple copies).
And even if they did have a fantastic selection, I'm not so sure I would change the way I select books now, anyway. My book browsing finds LibraryThing and Amazon to be much more integral to picking my next books to read than walking down shelves and pulling books to read the bookflap and look at the cover. They also talk about the importance of the physicality of books. But to me, the physicality is more important when a) actually reading the book and b) buying a book. In the process of selecting a book to read that I'm not going to own, physicality is actually a bit of a burden.
Now, I say that while stressing the "from my point of view" part. I understand that reference librarians perform many other types of services other than stamping a book (which they don't even do at ours because that's at a self-checkout line) or taking overdue fine money. Historically, libraries have agglomerated all sorts of different functions under one roof. Only in a library could one person get free access to a trained researcher, while another person pulled an article from a newspaper 60 years ago while another checked out a Dr. Seuss book. I'm sure there's a lot of stuff I'm leaving out.
I will also say that the way I used a library when I was a small child and when I was a young adult was also much different than today. Back then, my reading list solely consisted of what I could find on the shelf. Interlibrary loan? What the heck is that? And at one point, the library even served as after-school daycare for my brothers and me (we were well-behaved nerdy kids).
But I think those times were already over, regardless of library funding. This article talks about being a sort of "Netflix for books". Right now, the book lending functions are closer to a "Blockbuster for books." I look on the web and see that there are "Netflix for books" sites out there that charge anywhere from $14-$24/month.
I wonder if libraries might be able to make anything other than peanuts by tallying up their estimated costs and sending patrons a "yearly statement" of how much they've used the service (stripped of actual titles and such for privacy purposes) and have a suggested donation to offset that cost. If my library sent me a yearly letter (or even better, email) saying "Thanks for using the library. The cost of providing the dozen books you've checked this year is around $10. If you would like to make a donation, please send in this form/go to this site. One way or the other, we appreciate you visiting your local library."
Boy, ain't that the truth. I never found wandering down library shelves very worthwhile as far as just trying to pick out the next book to read.
Bookstores were marginally better.
But now LT is my go-to and Amazon its backup in the rare instances I can't find enough on LT.
Of course I'm also an ebook preferrer. I've won a few books the last few months (on ER and several from contests on the 'net, and the more often I fight to hold open a thick mass market paperback or hardback the more I love my ereader.
There is a netflix for books out there. I remember someone I knew signed up for it.
Bookstores were marginally better.
I've found some of the best books I've ever read by browsing libraries and bookstores. I've never made any serendipitous finds on Amazon or on-line sites, because you can't browse those in the same way.
The first thing I do when I go to the library is head for the "New Books" shelf (or room, if it's the main library). If I'm looking for something specific, I always check out the adjacent books, and often find a better option.
Interestingly, since the advent of Netflix and the closure of my neighborhood video store, I have watched far fewer films than I used to. You can't be spontaneous with Netflix. You can't come home after work and think, "Hmm, I feel like watching a movie", and go up and down the shelves and stumble upon a movie you've never heard of before that sounds really, really good.
Same goes for books.
I used to approach picking out books this way, back when I had access to one library and no money to actually buy books. So serendipity was really my only option.
Now, I just don't bother going to the library and browsing this way since they only keep a fraction of the catalog at any particular branch. I could artificially limit myself this way and I'm sure find some delightful books in the process, but I choose not to.
On the other hand, when shopping used bookstores I use serendipity heavily checked against LT and Amazon. Since they have a naturally limited stock of books I can get cheap, I'm going to try to get everything out of it as possible. I use LT to check against books I have and books I want. I use both LT and Amazon to see how others are rating and reviewing the works and the authors in general. This has saved me many a likely mistake, especially on authors I liked when younger whose quality has went down with age.
Have I missed books I'd like simply because I didn't decide more randomly based on just the bookflap and the cover? Sure, I think statistically speaking that's highly likely. But the same could be said for using the serendipity method over more researched methods - would I miss books I'd like simply because they don't have the most exciting bookflap/cover or because I'd need to order the book from a branch on the other side of the city? Highly likely. Generally my method winds up with me getting books that I wind up at least thinking are "good" and more often think are "really good" or "great".
Now, my approach for finding books from the library or new books is to do more actual research on LT and Amazon to find new authors and stories. I find this is more work than going "huh, the jacket descriptions sounds really good". But it's also much less likely to lead me astray than the clever jacket writer who doesn't bother to tell you that Larry Niven isn't quite the author he used to be and is mostly just phoning it in. Hell, if you went by the flap summaries for all the new Dune books, they sound like they'd be great fun! That's an example where I literally almost picked up the book, then decided I should probably check online before parting with my cash. Sure glad I did.
I think a lot of it is just what we're used to. If you're used to just browsing them on a shelf and picking some based on the skill of the bookflap/back cover writer, that probably just seems the most natural and best way to you. But the reality is that it's really hard for any one person to take their own anecdotal experience and know how close to the "mainstream" that experience is.
It's kind of like the netflix thing. My experience is exactly the opposite. In the past decade, I've probably rented only a handful of films. Knowing what kind of crap filmmakers will shovel onto the public hoping word of mouth doesn't let people know what tremendous garbage it is, I'm pretty leery of just picking a movie based on how great the ad copy on the box is. And since I've gotten netflix, I've watched a LOT of movies and TV shows that I would have never bothered with before. I would have just picked up a book instead! So in that way, it's a bit of a mixed blessing.
Going to the bookshops used to get me buying books by new (to me) writers, but now it just gives me the names to look up, after I've bought the ones I already decided to buy.
Libraries always had a community service side, that's just more relevant to people now than ever before.
I'm joking of course. But seriously, what library?
I've gotten more heavily into it recently, and honestly it's rare that I don't start browsing and find tons of stuff to add to my queue. I also purchased a Roku set top box, which makes streaming it to your TV a matter of clicking a button on a remote. Well, that an paying for high speed internet. :D