I mentioned in my last post that I might do a list of some reasons why a certain library system isn't one of my favourites. Jen's comment that she didn't mind this system inspired me to do that list now. So here's my list of some reasons why I'm not a fan of LPL:
1. They hired an MBA as their “Chief Executive Officer”. I'm not against MBA-types running libraries (and think that, when they also have an MLIS, are often ideal for libraries). Otherwise, call me old-fashioned but I still believe the person who runs a library should have some knowledge of and connection to libraries.
2. They've got sponsors for most sections of their library and again, I'm not completely opposed as I know the realities of library funding. But everytime I go to the top of the escalator to the second floor and see the giant sign announcing “The General Motors Business Resource Centre”, I cringe. (On the other hand, bequests from families and non-profit organizations like the London Lions and the Friends of the London Library to sponsor certain sections seems a lot less…harmful? Conflicted? Problematic?)
3. In the main branch, except for the Rogers Media Studies section (there's that beautiful corporate synergy again!) and the coffee shop, the entire ground floor is dedicated to children's and teen services. This means adults looking for materials invariably have to go to the second (or third) floor before they'll find something of interest which doesn't seem very user-friendly in terms of design. [2006-09-26 edit to add: When you get to the other floors, there's no real “flow” the sections – they seem scattered about in “chunks” rather than naturally leading from one to another like I think a proper library should do.]
4. Related to the last point, this also means that there is no help desk, other than the one for teenagers and one for children, on the main floor either. This is actually sort of what inspired me to write a brief jab about my dislike for this systerm in my last entry. I was there yesterday and found a book in the OPAC that should've been in the Rogers Media Studies collection (along with the other similar books I was picking up.) It wasn't so I asked at circulation if they knew if it could be with the 300's upstairs. Circulation said they couldn't answer questions like that and sent me to the Teen Help Desk. No one was there but there was a sign directing you to the Children's Help Desk. The person on that desk told me that “maybe the book is in transit?” even though the OPAC clearly stated that it was in library and I don't think many libraries use the gift of prophecy when tracking books. I finally went up to the second floor to the (other) section for 300-level type books and found what I was looking for.
5. You aren't allowed to borrow back issues of magazines from the downtown branch (though you can from the other branches.) [2006-09-26 edit to add: the magazine are also located all over the library by the related section instead of in one central magazine area.]
6. They often place DVD's on the shelves with the books rather than giving them their own section (is this called “collocation“?) which I think is a more intuitive way to organize non-book items of any type (CD's, graphic novels, computer software, etc.) I'm also not a big fan of the big cumbersome DVD security sleeves that they use. Oh, and their DVD collection is pretty lacking as well. I mean, I don't expect to get the latest Tom Cruise movie at the library but I do think most public libraries can fill a niche by loaning out art films, foreign films, classics, documentaries, etc.
7. Their web site looks out-dated and isn't very well designed. They use Millennium for their OPAC but I much prefer Dynix that's in use in Regina and Calgary. I haven't used their Internet terminals much but in the few times that I did, I found them to be lacking as well – only Internet Explorer, having to manually book your time at the help desk rather than an automated system, no access to the CD-ROM or a USB drive.
8. They close all branches on Mondays (and Sundays over the summer.) I've never understood this – I think that if libraries have to be closed for budget reasons, why close on a Sunday which I assume would be a popular day for people to visit the library? (I'm not being graded on this rant so have no stats to back this up.)
9. They only allow patrons to take out a maximum of 40 items. More and more public libraries are going to this limit but I find it very restricting – say I take out ten books for personal reading, ten books for school projects, ten magazines and ten CD's or DVD's, I'm at my limit. Maybe I should just not take out so many (because admittedly, I don't come close to reading every book I take out) but I like to have almost a “mini-library” at home to choose from when I start a new book. This isn't an issue for me (yet!) but parents with young children can easily hit the 40 limit taking out picture books as well.
10. The first thing you see when you walk into the downtown branch is a security guard with the circulation desk fairly far removed from the main doors. I know this is pretty common, especially at downtown branches in major cities. But I always find the security guard at this library to be more…intimidating isn't the word because they're basically rent-a-cops…but more, hmmm, not sure how to phrase it. How about this: the way they position their guard right beside the security gate away from all other staff makes you feel guilty before proven innocent. (Seeing how they react when the buzzer goes off because a book hasn't been demagnetized reinforces this impression as well
To be fair, here's some things I like about this system:
1. I love their outdoor reading garden.
2. I like their coffee shop and the fact that it's a locally owned company.
3. I think it's awesome that the chair of their board was willing to come out and MC our Freedom to Read Week event last February. There aren't as strong of connections between the library and our library school as I expected when I arrived here. But that was pretty cool of him!
4. For the most part, I've found that the waits for popular books aren't as long as they've been at other libraries I've belonged to.
5. I like that many of their staff are my colleagues in library school and all are pretty cool people!