Friday, July 25, 2008

Guest Post: Working The (Library) System

This is a guest post from my pal Kimber at No Limits Ladies:

Last summer, my internet access went on the fritz. It was the worse possible time for it. I was deep into edits for Breach Of Trust. One missed deadline and the very tight publishing schedule would have been messed up. On my first novel (so not good for author-editor/publisher relations).

No problem. I walked to the nearby library and reserved a computer with free internet access. The lady to my right was sending out her resume. The kid to my left was playing a computer game.

A year and a half ago, I was completing research for Invisible, my novel on identity theft. There was a rare book I wanted to read covering bank theft in Belize. It was no longer in print, not sold on eBay.

No problem. I ordered the single copy available in the library system and had it sent to my local branch. Within a week, I had the information I needed.

Last month, an author buddy had a book launch. She is an expert in a niche subject. Due to the book being published through a small press, the larger bookstores weren't interested in a signing. She didn't have money to rent space.

No problem. The local library allowed her to give a free talk on the subject with her book available for sale afterwards. Not only did she meet interested readers but she was interviewed by reporters.

If you live in New York City, you have access to 50.6 million items (including books, maps, and dvd's), 27,790 programs, and 2,328 public computers. And get this, you have access to most of these for free (if you are a New York resident). My favorite price! It doesn't matter what your income, your background, or your credit score is, you can get a library card.

Growing up dirt poor, I depended on the library system to put me on the same footing as other kids. I couldn't afford to buy Merchant Of Venice for that grade nine English essay. Instead I borrowed it from the library.

Today, I still use the public library. I borrowed Guy Kawasaki's Art Of The Start from the library before buying a copy of my own. When I feel that shopaholic urge threatening to derail my investment plans, I go to the library with cloth book bags and borrow 30 books at one time. I exit the building feeling like the wealthiest woman in the world.

When was the last time you used your public library to grow wealth?

Kimber Chin ( ) writes romance novels based in the business world. She also blogs at . Why would a writer promote the power of the public library? Because she wouldn't have become a writer without it.


Anonymous said...

I love the NYPL! (I'm probably one of the few people to know that a library card can be maxed out.)

Little Miss Moneybags said...

I love the NYPL too! (And I also knew that the library card can be maxed out, and ALWAYS have my requested items maxed out).

If I started buying books, it would become a problem. My apartment would collapse into the one below it--not that it would matter, because I wouldn't have money for rent. A voracious reader needs to be able to get a fix for free!

Anonymous said...

Your post was passed onto the staff of the RI State Library Agency by one of our own because it made her feel good to read about how libraries serve. I was delighted to read it for the same reason and happy to see non-librarians advocate for libraries and the benefits that they provide.

RI has a system that provides the same services as NYPL on a statewide basis. Our system works across library types as well (e.g., school can borrow from a public library, a academic library from a school library, a public library from a hospital library, etc.) All on behalf of our state's residents who can pick up the requested materials at the library building of their choice.

Keep on advocating for libraries! Let resource allocators (legislators, city officers, etc.) hear your voice! Vote yes on library funding! Join Friends groups! Above all keep using your local library!

S said...

Great post and great lesson to be learnt. Public libraries still serve a purpose, just go into one on a Saturday afternoon and see how crowded they are with energetic people.

While I do not go much myself, I had a situation where I could not find a specific article needed for a paper during college. Not even UPenn or anything in the city had it! But my local library of 16 years sure did have it, you never know until you actually go in and check it out!

Anonymous said...

I've recently started going to the library! It is so liberating to be able to read a book in a couple hours (I am a speed reader) and not feel guilty for spending $20 on it!!!! I need to get better at reserving the newer books I can keep up with my favorite authors.

Anonymous said...

I frequently browse my library system's online database, which is an invaluable resource. Typically you get access to archives of local and national newspapers and magazines, educational resources and even auto repair manuals. I have used it for work and in my personal life. Check yours out, you never know what you will find!

Anonymous said...

Love public libraries. Cannot say enough good things about it. Great post.


Shawnna said...

Rostta Stone used to have a program for libraries where any use of that library can access every single language course available through them. They recently stopped offering this, but there's another company that offers something similar with a more limited selection. It's called Auralog and it's quite fun. So check out the 'database' section of your libraries website. You might be surprised to find some really interesting (and expensive!) tools to help you do something unexpected.

Shawnna said...

Note: I should say expensive, but free for you to use.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Librarian--I loved this. This is the best example of why Libraries are great that I've ever read. No matter how obscure, they will have that article or get it for you--no questions asked.

Laura said...

I absolutely LOVE the NYPL - I actually just stopped by today to pick up a stack of requests! Whenever I hear about a book I might be interested in, I just put it on my request list - much easier than keeping my own list of books I'd like to read, and it's always a fun surprise to stop by and see what's waiting for me.

Beth said...

One of my favorite things about my current job is we print stickers for my local library.

Libraries are fantastic. I love how the OKC system works, and they have free wireless internet access for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica- Yes the libraries are awesome! I love making copies out of magazines and reading books. I used to reserve alot of books and work in the library. Free is a great thing in NYC!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post!

Anonymous said...

i love libraries too! i rent books AND dvds from there (i saw the whole sex and the city series from rented dvds!)

but i have to ask--as an author, wouldn't you want people to BUY your books rather than just borrow them? just curious on your stand on that :)

Sharyn Fitzgerald said...

I love my library! I'm currently on a student budget and I use the library for lots of things, in addition to books. I borrow DVDs, CDs, even magazines (I love this since I'm a real magazine junkie!). Occasionally I marvel that libraries are still free. It just seems too unbelievable sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for providing the I loved libraries as a child and am continuing that love affair to this day. Years ago when I realized I needed to cut spending I stopped buying fiction and turned to the library.

The fact that BPL's information is at my fingertips and I can reserve books online the moment I hear about them is priceless.