As Useless As Tits On A Bull: Library User Fees in Alberta

Hello to any
visitors from the Alberta library and writing communities.  Thanks
to all of you who took the time to respond to my e-mail queries
regarding user fees in Alberta libraries.  All comments, on both
sides of the issue, were very useful. 

I've put my paper online
(141 kb PDF) and I think it's pretty obvious right from the title where
I stand on the issue.   (My professor was looking through the
stack of papers and blurted out “Oh, Jason…” when he saw mine. 
That's probably not a good thing.  But to me, the title was a
homage to my western roots.  Yeah, that's what it was.) 

Anyhow, I would love any feedback from
anyone on the paper as it stands now, no matter where you may be on the
issue.  I haven't gotten the paper back yet but will post and
updated version at that point.  

Comments 4

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Interesting paper.
    I consider my late fees to be user fees. I don't mind paying them, first, because I know better than anyone how utterly awful I am at returning anything on time; and second, because I can afford to and I know libraries are underfunded and deserve much more than my $12 (my most recent late/lost item fee).
    Because I am a socialist, I would much rather pay for a necessary and important cornerstone of education like the library just to make sure *everyone* has access to it than spend my hard-earned tax dollars at the bar, the movie store, or big-box retail outlets. Because I have a job and still budget like a student, I can afford to buy the books I want. The library is still a treat.
    How great is it when you can still look forward to the weekly trip to the library as a 'really cool and fun thing to do with your family'?
    The one thing I can say for user fees, whether it's at the library, the museum, or the symphony, is that it can be a reflection on how much we “value” those parts of our lives. For whatever reason or reasons, we are so entrenched in our consumer…ist? mindset that many of us have one of two reactions to something that is “free” (I know it's not REALLY free because we pay for the service out of our taxes, but for the most part when you don't have to pay an admission at the door, you figure it's 'free'):
    1) HEY! It's FREE! So we can take as much as we want! LOAD UP, FELLOWS!
    2) It's FREE!? What the hell is wrong with it that they have to give it away?
    Again, I don't mind paying admission/user fees. I will stop at every roadside attraction and museum and pay the $3 to go and see Madame Dufresne's Museum of Wax and Stuffed Critters. Happily. I would pay $3 a visit for the library and be happy about it.
    **Because I know why the library is important, necessary, and an integral part of a well-functioning society**
    Other people don't think like me, I've discovered, or can't afford that three dollars. One could argue the library is more important for people who can't afford user fees than it is for those who can.
    I don't know.
    Really, all I wanted to say was that I consider my late fees to be user fees.

    Posted 01 Apr 2006 at 4:04 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Good job on the article. I think you are overly optimistic about the tide turning against user fees in libraries. The government of Alberta has become debt-free through the extensive introduction of user fees in every facet of the lives of Albertans. Even with billions of dollars in unbudgeted surplus every year, the government will not get rid of the health care fee or even something so small as library fees, because it is part of their conservative ideology. Only a new government (and not just a new PC leader, but a whole different party) will effect that kind of policy change. With the PC party seemingly beginning to implode, maybe a new government is on the horizon, but sadly I fear it's still pretty distant.
    Library fees were debated in the Legislature last year after the death of our much-loved Lieutenant Governor Lois Hole. A MLA tabled a motion for Alberta to get rid of library fees as a lasting tribute to Mrs. Hole. The debate around this motion was sadly more of the same-old double-speak, with government MLAs speaking about letting communities decide on this issue, and argung that if something is free it's not viewed as worthwhile, so we need to charge a fee for library use. The MLA from Fort McMurray poo-pooed the idea that a person couldn't afford the fee at the local library )which is on the high end at $20). This came during the same week that a person from that town, who had moved there to enjoy the boom but had yet to find a job or a place to stay, asked if there was anyway the fee could be waived, since he was short of funds. He was told that he would have to plead his case to the library director and provide proof of his need! Read about this in AAQ:
    http://www.talonline.ca/cgi-bin/aaq/s/question.pl?rec_no=14627
    To wrap up, I think this is an important debate in library circles, but it seems that many are not willing to take a stand. Thanks for beginning the debate.

    Posted 04 Apr 2006 at 4:05 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Really enjoyed the article, however, regarding the statement on Lloydminster Public Library's user fees… I am fairly certain/positive that in the mid 90's the Lloydminster Public Library *did* charge membership fees to Alberta residents, but not to Saskatchewan residents. People wishing to get a library card were asked to prove whether they lived on the Alberta or Saskatchewan side of the border by bringing in a piece of mail with their home address on it. Unfortunately this was problematic, as some Lloydminster Alberta residents found ways around Alberta “privatization” fees (this was a huge problem with auto insurance as well… private and very high in AB, government & much lower in SK)… rather than have their mail sent to their residence, many residents had (and still have) a post office box at the post office (which happens to be in Saskatchewan). When asked to produce their “address” they would produce their PO box # and their Saskatchewan mailing address (rather than their Alberta address of residence) hoping they would not have to pay a membership fee. At one point, the Library was specifically asking new patrons to bring in a utility bill (power, gas, water etc.) so that they could see the actual “house” address rather than just the mailing address. Loved the paper… but you may want to investigate further/change the bit re: Lloydminster, if you decide to use it for future purposes.

    Posted 22 Aug 2006 at 12:07 am
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Thanks very much for your comments. Very timely too as I am indeed planning to submit my essay to a journal by the end of this month so it's great to have this type of background information. Don't know if you checked to have “comment notification” for replies to your comments but if so, I'd love to know who you are and possibly even cite your comments in my revised article. (You can write to me off-list at: jason@hammond.net).
    I sent out a request for thoughts/responses/background on the topic to the Alberta library and writing communities so am curious if you're also from Alberta or elsewhere and also how you came across this entry? (I know of one Alberta-based librarian who's linking to this entry from her blog – maybe that's how you found it?)
    Anyhow, I hope you see my response. Thanks again – your clarification is very much appreciated. It will definitely be integrated into my next revision of the paper.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 9:46 am

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