A few years ago, we had the opportunity to vote to pay for two new libraries. I voted against it. That doesn't sound like me, does it? You've seen my reading lists; I love libraries. Yes, I do, but not this one. Before this vote, I noticed that the old branch I visited was selling off a lot of classics. One day, they told me that, no, there was not an unabridged copy of Moby Dick in the entire system. There used to be, but not any more. So, when the issue came up on the ballot, for two new buildings to be built, with better tech, ie more computer terminals, I voted no. I just had a bad feeling about the direction this library system was headed.
Most people voted yes, though, and now we have the Non-Library. That is not its official name. Its official name, however, does not have the name Library in it. They are called Anythinks. Clever way of telling us that this is not a real library, isn't it? There are are no librarians in the Anythink. They have concierges. I know this because they wear badges with "concierge" below their name. If you ask a concierge for assistance in finding a book, he hands you a map. The maps do not help because the books are not cataloged like they are in a library. No Dewey Decimal System. No Library of Congress system. No, none of that. Why not? We asked that on our first visit. The Anything is modeled after Barnes and Noble or Borders, not a library. Bookstores do not catalog books, therefore neither does the Anythink.
Oh, you may be objecting, but the books are still grouped for browsing in a bookstore. Not so well as you'd hope. I'm not sure who decides which books go where, but it seems like it might be a class of visiting third graders. For example, novels with the word "knitting" in them will be with the (non-fiction) knitting pattern books. Books taking place during a world war may be shelved in world history, American history, or military history. You guess. A book I recently read, A Voyage Long and Strange, was shelved like this: audiobook, abridged, shelved alongside sociology audiobooks; large print copy supposedly with biographies, but I could not find it; and regular print book shelved in travel. To heighten the mystery, things on those shelves may or may not be in alphabetical order by author or by title or a mix of the two or not at all.
Sounds fun? No, not to me, either, so I try to circumvent this frustrating time drain by requesting books and letting the concierges pull them from the shelves. However, the concierges must have the same difficulty finding the books, because many days after requesting them, they are still not waiting for me in the holds section despite the computer catalog stating they are shelved in that very branch of non-library.
My husband asked about a book he couldn't find a couple weeks ago and was told, "It was probably stolen." I'm not sure if theft is astronomically higher at a Non-Library than at Libraries or if that is just what a concierge says when they can't find a book. It may well be true; I don't know. I do know that there are no fines at the Anythink, which sounds nice unless you are waiting for someone to return a book. Without fines as motivation, a lot of people will keep books for months. That would not result in the computer claiming the book is on the shelf when it is not, but perhaps it is indicative of the same sort of greedy book-thievery spirit pervasive in a place that is neither bookstore nor library.
I'm glad the Anything is not the only option near me. The neighboring towns still have real libraries. I hope their voters keep it that way.