Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Science Fiction at the Library

I had been looking forward all day to walking to the library after work tonight.  I had discovered a short cut the other day when I was walking around my neighbourhood and I wanted to try it out.  But when I got out of work, there was a strong wind blowing and it was quite cool, plus there were huge dark clouds covering most of the sky.  My shortcut across this large open field suddenly seemed rather risky.
I decided to take the car instead.  Which is just as well, since I came home with a big pile of goodies: 2 DVD's, the four books I had ordered last week and been advised via email were ready for pickup and a few others besides.
I admit that I haven't used my public library much in the past few years.  There is a small room in my apartment building that is set up as a library and I go there all the time when I am looking for something to read.  There's no signing out books or worrying about due dates, it is all done on the honour system. People are always donating new books so there are usually many current titles available as well as old favourites.  So when I went to my local branch a few months ago to get a new library card, it was quite the experience.  I hadn't been again until tonight and once again, I was amazed by how everything works now, compared to back in the day.

Of course, the Dewey Decimal system is still in use on the shelves but the card catalogues and drawers full of typed cards are long gone.  Instead, there are several computer screens available to look up book titles but even for that, I needed help last time as the home screen wasn't very user friendly. It's much easier to search titles and order books online using the library's website from the comfort of your own home.  Within a few days, the titles will be delivered to the branch of your choosing from all over the city.

And have you checked out a book at the library lately? It's very high tech and feels a bit like you're taking part in a science fiction movie.  You scan the bar code on your library card, then pile as many as 4 books at a time on a small flat black square roughly the size of a dinner plate and it somehow, magically, scans your books. The titles all appear on the computer screen and when you are done, it spits out a little piece of paper with the name of the books and the due dates on it and you're done. When you return a book, you put it into a machine outside that looks a bit like a bank machine and once again, it is electronically scanned to confirm that you have returned it.

I'm not sure why they even need human staff any more, other than to answer questions and show newbies like me how everything is done.  Which is kind of a shame, since interacting with the librarian was always part of the experience when visiting the library, either because they were haughty and acting all know-it-all and/or interesting people who were a genuine font of random knowledge.

Still, now that I've gotten the hang of it, I'm sure I'll be back to check out more books and DVD's before too long.

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