There has been a change to the way the Cornish Library Service operates that I’m not too happy with, and so I’d be curious to know what happens elsewhere, and whether my concerns are reasonable.
Let me explain
The Cornish Library Service runs 32 branch libraries. And, of course, it buys books for them. Multiple copies of popular, mainstream books, one or even more per library. Less copies, sometimes even just one for the whole county, of others. But anything not in your branch can be ordered from another library in the county for a mere 50p.
Now that seems eminently sensible.
But here’s what’s changed.
In the past when I ordered a book that wasn’t in stock at my library it went back to the branch it came from when I returned it. But not now. Books stay where they land until somebody else orders it.
I had suspected that for a while, because an awful lot of books that I had to order in are now on the shelves in my local library.
And the rotation system has been stopped. The library used to move books that weren’t in stock in all of the branches between libraries from time to time, but no more.
Now I can understand that the new system might save library staff a lot of time and energy. But I can also see problems.
I used to be able to leave a book I wanted to read behind if the moment wasn’t right or I had enough books already, safe in the knowledge that it was in stock and would reappear sooner or later. But now books will won’t come back if somebody from another branch places an order.
It’s happened with The Woman before Me by Ruth Dugdall, which I’ve had my eye on for a while but not picked up.
And a while back I read something about A Vision of Loveliness by Louise Levene that piqued my interest. I remembered seeing it in the library, but when I went in to look for it disappeared from the shelf. And when I checked the catalogue it was gone, ordered by someone else in another library.
And here’s another scenario. I spotted the Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson in a charity shop. It looked good, but it wasn’t necessarily a keeper, so I put it down and checked the library catalogue. It showed that there was a copy in my branch out on loan, and so I waited for it to come back. I waited for weeks and weeks. And when I checked the catalogue again there wasn’t a copy in my library any more.
Am I being petty?
I know that all I have to do is place my order and pay my 50p. But I also know that books used to move around without a library user having to pay before, and now they don’t.
And I know that new books will be coming into my library when other people order them.
But I’m not convinced.
Yes, popular books will travel all around the county and everyone will get their chance. But maybe other will get stuck.
I’ve ordered in a lot of books longlisted for the Orange Prize and none of them seem to be moving on. Soon the entire longlist will either be in my library or my library pile, which is great for me but maybe not so good for the rest of the county.
And I have noticed a couple of instances where there are two copies and they are both in my branch – Secret Son by Leila Lalami and Dimanche and Other Stories by Irene Nemirovsky – both books I’ve ordered.
I know anyone in the county could order them, but not everyone realises that. Library users who just scan the shelves are at the mercy of those of us who order books.
And I’m really not convinced, looking at the books that appear on the shelves where we pick up our reservations, that they are going to get as good a service as they did from the old rotation system.
And here is the fatal flaw. You can only order the books you know about. The books you don’t know about, the books you would have spotted when they were rotated into your branch, will just sit on shelves forever.
And I fear that we are getting library cuts by stealth. While the focus is on book acquisitions and opening hours, powers that be are quietly cutting other things …
So tell me, what do you think? What happens where you are? How would you do things.