“Libraries gave us power…..”

  I have wanted to write something in praise of the wonderful library system here for a while, and had been looking for a pithy quote I could use as the title , when I remembered this opening line from that great song by The Manic Street Preachers – “A Design for Life”. Reading is in many ways a rather anti-social activity, but its one I do quite a lot… I usually have around five books on the go at any one time, and always try to remember to have at least one of them with me at all times. This means that if ever I find myself waiting for anything – a Doctor’s appointment, a delayed flight, the line to get into a Las Vegas buffet  – I can spend the time very productively… Manys the time I have been standing by a busy airport departure gate, waiting for a delayed flight – and have spent the time quite blissfully immersed in my latest book. I’m sure I must have a rather strangely serene smile on my face, and passers by are probably thinking to themselves “..what IS he on ?”…. They’d never believe me if I told them !

I have always been a big supporter of libraries, and was an active member  when I lived in England – but our local library here system here in the Valley makes them look like something from the stone age or an episode of The Flintstones ! One of my goals in writing these entries is to highlight the differences between the way  things work on each side of The Atlantic – this is certainly one of  them …

Let’s start with the opening hours… A lot of libraries in England are only open during the day, shutting their doors at around 5:30 pm – which makes them totally useless for most people who work for a living. There may be one or at most two evenings a week when  they stay open until 8:00, but Murphy’s Law generally means that those are the very days that you can’t get there ! Here, the main library I go to is open from 9:00 am in the morning until 9:00 pm in the evening from Monday to Thursday, and then from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from Friday to Sunday.

In England I was allowed around 10 items out at any one time. Here I can have up to 50 ! Mind you I think my wife would have a thing or two to say if I arrived home with that many books …

The IT systems that the library here has also make those at my Library back in England look like one  that might have been used on Noah’s Ark ! I can search their entire catalogue online, and if I see something I want to reserve, can do it there and then. When the item is ready for me to pick up – they send me an email telling me that it is ready for me. They also have a lot of instantly downloadable e-books. These are audio books in a format that can be played in a free player, and that have a built in expiry date, but there is a huge range available.

As well as the usual facilities you would find in a library – the larger one’s here in Clark County have their own fully equipped theatres that can be hired by ordinary members of the public for what are really very modest sums of money.

As Tom Chapin said in the lyrics of his “Library Song”

Oh, I’m going down to the Library,
Picking out a book, check it in, check it out.
Gonna say Hi to the Dictionary,
Picking out a book, check it in, check it out.
I’m going down to the Li… Shhh!
Picking out a book, check it in, check it out!

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