As we chat-board perennials rejoiced here in the publication of a new volume of The Wars of Light and Shadow,
I posted to a thread about offering a copy of the volume to my local branch of the library network currently operating public libraries in my general area of towns and suburbs.
The library wouldn't have it. I remarked on this here.
A post came in response -- NOT from author Janny Wurts -- saying something about how well-off the library must be,
if they can manage without donations from a local reader who has a card and account there.
Erm, folks, I think that post had friendly intentions behind it, but --
I take exception.
Because the facts are more complicated,
and worse, sad to say, for authors and readers alike.
So if you can't be bothered with the reality of library bureaucracies, you can stop reading this post/thread here and now. You have been warned.
It is the post-computer, post-data-processing age here, in the land of public libraries and post-graduate educations.
Bureaucracy, as I need hardly remind you, has been given a new lease on life
with information technology and databases,
and that includes branches of public libraries.
I drive happily back and forth between two modest-sized towns, about three miles apart, each of which has its library; they belong to the same network, so they are not what used to be called
"free libraries." That's to say unaffiliated and independent.
It is the dependence of public libraries on a central bureaucracy system with a common budget,
and one big database with a network of websites,
that has made my local libraries give the cold shoulder to a friendly donation of a brand-spanking-new hardcover copy of "Destiny's Conflict."
This is NOT about Janny Wurts alone,
and let me demonstrate by using the example of
Steven Erikson, and his hugely successful
Malazan Empire "Book of the Fallen" in multiple volumes.
It's like this.
Between my two little neighborhood libraries,
the number of Erikson/Malazan/"Book of the Fallen" volumes is ...
They have NO copies of Erikson's Malazan fantasy books on their shelves. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
(They have a few Wars of Light and Shadow volumes,
actually, from the good old days when the series was young, the volumes had single-digit numbers, and library budgets were handled a little differently. They stop with "Peril's Gate", though.)
library patrons at either branch who want their library to provide them with any given volume of the "Book of the Fallen" series on the fantasy Malazan Empire by Steven Erikson,
have a few alternatives.
There are e-books, although these are as scarce, for this series in this library network,
as the ink-paper-on-the-shelf copies.
They can have the librarian at the circulation desk
put in a request to the network in general.
Then, given that network libraries in towns too far away to drive to (for the patron)
have that Erikson/Malazan book in circulation,
the library will have the requested book
trucked over to the patron's home branch,
where the librarian will hold it for the patron.
So the patron can borrow a book from another location without ever leaving town,
and the local branch can loan out a copy of a book
which they do not have to pay for nor find a home for on their shelves --
all they have to do is go along with the transportation system
and the little vans that literally drive cartloads of books from branch to branch as ordered.
Talk about leaving an author out there ...
Thank you for posting this, Melanie - yes, on the library bureaucracy and red tape - I've encountered it, many times, just trying to replace copies that were shelved, then 'stolen' from the library system.
It almost takes an insider to help get the books catalogued - if you just donate them, they put them up for sale on the 'friends of the library' shelves, cheap, to raise cash for newer titles.
We used to have inter library loan service available - I used it hard to get nonfiction titles for research (many for this series) - but at least in this area, they have discontinued the service, a huge blow to a small town system that won't have the reference library that a university town will.
I have a neighbor who works in the system - he has been my mainstay for getting books ordered or into the system at all - he's so fed up with the red tape and the committees and the politics he's ready to retire.
What a loss to readers - and a trend worth fighting. Without a library available to anyone/without a system to lend books - it is not a level playing field, period.
How the digital age has in fact complicated things....you bet. It's got its up side and down side.
It would have been me who made the comment you took exception to Melanie.
In Australia each state has its own library network, and you can donate new books at any branch of it and they are always grateful, especially if it is a hardcover or latest release they might not have managed to get in yet. When I took my local Library a nice brand new HB Destiny's Conflict one of the librarians recognized it from across the room and rushed over, they had not managed to get a copy yet, in any form. We also have inter library loans within the state, which I used to use to get the books I wanted to read, you just had to wait for it to become available and they would send it to the library of your choice so you could pick it up. We can also request books the library system does not yet have, or which some uncaring reader has stolen the last copy of, they do their best, but do not always have the funds to get the book. So yes our libraries are always grateful to receive new books, although I suspect they do not get as many donations as they used to, books are getting more expensive here, and many readers have changed to digital books.
Maybe it is because Australia is a bit slow to catch up on some trends in the USA, but I hope they never follow the US library system. Too many readers dependent on the library would miss out on the chance to read some great books.
Friends Of The Library!
Sometimes I think the library is as much about that second-hand shopping
as it is about borrowing and circulating.
It's enough to make you gnash your teeth.