Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Library Says, "We're Sorry"

Back on December 5, 2011, a few days after I received the twenty copies of Documenting America that I purchased, I took a copy to the Bentonville Public Library, to donate it for their holdings. The lady at the desk took the book. I don't remember what she said. She may have asked if I wanted to see a librarian about it. If so, I said no, no need to bother one of them. Just put it in the pile for processing.

About the middle of January I began checking on the book. Each time I went to the library, which is about every two weeks, I first checked the e-card catalog for the listing. It wasn't there. Then in early February I began to check with the clerks at the front desk, asking them if I had missed it in the catalog and when I might expect it to be added. Always the answer was they didn't know, but that these things take some time.

Finally last Monday, the 12th, I asked more forcefully about it. The lady at the front desk said she didn't know anything and I would have to talk with a librarian, but that none were there right now. On Monday the 19th I called for a librarian, but did so late in the day, and left a voice message. Promptly at 9:00 AM yesterday, the hour at which the library opens, a librarian called me. After she found out what I wanted, she said:

Oh, didn't they tell you at the front desk when you dropped the book off? We rarely, if ever, add a self-published book to our collection. This is not a reflection on the quality of your book, but most self-published books are not up to the standards the Library expects. We look at any self-published books that come in, but almost all of them we just give to the resale shop. I'm so sorry they didn't tell you this when you donated the book. They're supposed to tell everyone that who donates a self-published book.

I was sort of stunned. Probably a few days after I left the book, one of the librarians looked at it, saw it was self-published, and brought it to the resale shop, which is in a nook of the library. Naturally it's closed on Tuesdays. In fact it's closed most days. It opens for limited hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Was my book still there? Could I buy it back and add it to my inventory?

Today I went to the library to find out. The resale shop opens at 10:00 AM, and I arrived about 10:30 AM. The shop was closed. A few racks of resale books were in the coffee shop, but my book wasn't on those racks. I checked with the lady at the front desk. She called someone in the library, but couldn't get any information. When I told her I had made a special trip just to shop in the resale store, she said,

I'm so sorry this happened. The resale shop is run by volunteers of the Friends of the Library, and we don't have much to do with their schedule.

I left and went back to work. It was only two miles each way, and I managed to do two other sort-of-necessary errands along the way. I'm tempted to write that this is a sorry library, but in fact it's a fairly good library. Hey, it's got a coffee shop, two great meeting rooms and a number of smaller meeting rooms. It has more computers than you can shake a stick at, and it has many feet of empty shelves onto which they can expend their collection for years and years and years.

Live and learn. I'll know better than to give this library anything in the future.


Gary said...

Our town library rarely even takes commercially published books as a donation. It's because the librarian has a vision for her collection, the space available, and what is most likely to circulate. Don't take it too hard. Librarians can be finicky because they're actually running a service business not a charity.

David A. Todd said...

Well, you're living amongst those uppity Exeters, snobbish commuters to Providence. I can understand their librarian being snooty about donations from the unwashed.

In a way I can't blame the local library. But it sure would have been nice if they would at least have given it an honest evaluation.

David A. Todd said...

Last night I went to the resale shop at the library. Documenting America was not on the shelfs. So I suppose someone bought it. But I did find Savage Beauty, the biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay. This will be a good one to read. An excellent 50 cent investment.

Oh, Gary, I hope you realize I was kidding in my last comment.

Gary said...

Of course. I know your writing style pretty well by now. Why don't you reapproach your librarian with the offer to give a free talk as a local author? Ann Hood was a hit at our Exeter library. Admittedly she's a bit more famous than you right now, but she talked about local things as well as her writing. Maybe your librarian will take your books then.