I found my library card a couple days ago.
I hadn’t really missed it.
In fact, I think I’ve been to the library a grand total of three times since I moved here. (Disclaimer: I’ve been to other libraries, that statement covers only the building closest to my current home.)
This morning I kind of woke up to the thought.
When I was growing up, all the way up to moving out, I was a staple visitor to our local library. I got my library number probably before I went to school and always wanted to borrow more books than my teacher would have allowed when we visited from school.
We had a library bus visit our school when we were on first grade, and years later the driver (who also worked the desk at the branch) told my aunt I must have read half of the books there. That’s not true, but I did read a lot. I read everywhere and I wasn’t too discriminant on what I read.
So why did I stop going when I moved out?
It’s easy to pose that question, but much harder to give a concise answer.
Library system in Finland is free to use for everyone. Some services like copying and such may cost, but to borrow books you just need to get a card. Most cards work at more than one library (the one I found for example covers the whole Helsinki metropolitan area) and have all sorts of internet services attached (renewing loans, ordering distant loans and so on).
The system is great and many people use it actively. Over time, libraries have started to offer all sorts of other things than books and magazines and research.
And that’s a bit of what bothers me with my local library here. There’s no library atmosphere. It’s nice youth likes to hang out in the library, but it kinda ruined the place for me. I may sound like an old fart, but I really do like my libraries silent. I remember what it was like to be young and noisy, and that’s all cool.
But not in the library.
The other big no-no for me was the self-service. The machine was cumbersome and when returning the books I felt I was manhandling them pushing them through the slot when I could hear them falling every which way on the other side. At my old library one checks out at the desk with the clerk and returns the books to the desk to the clerk. Only dropping happens if you return after-hours, and I never did that for the above-mentioned reason. Try returning to the desk here and the lady looks at you like you’ve grown an extra head.
The third issue is the selection. At home, I could be sure to always find something to strike my fancy or an old favorite, or even the research for some school project. Over here, I had trouble finding anything interesting – despite professing to be omnivorous with books I rarely venture to war/espionage fiction of which there were aplenty. There were even none of the books I liked back home (some older books that have the number cards still show my number 5-6 times back home, and yes I’ve checked).
I guess I would need to make a distant loan from some other library or make my way to a different branch to find something more to my tastes. And that removes the joy of finding a book just by wandering between the shelves. That would also add to the hassle, as I’d need to make the reservation, keep an eye on when the books come around and go pick them up. With my old job, that would have been nightmarish.
Back when I had just moved here and was pretty lost, I had hoped to find something familiar. I guess the experience was so far from what I knew and loved I pushed it away. The building itself is very pretty, light and airy. But somehow the staff didn’t seem that helpful to me the few times I went there and it is just rather noisy (and not all is from the teenagers – that place must have lousy acoustics).
Even if my old branch had a magazine room and art exhibitions and always a plethora of school kids it was never so noisy as this one. Not even during the children’s reading hours they used to have (and may still do for all I know).
Somehow I doubt I’ll be going again.
It’s funny though, when I moved here and before that, I thought the area would have so many awesome libraries and so much interesting things to read in them. I would never have then believed how wrong I’d find myself.
Or rather, I’m sure the interesting libraries are somewhere there, but I have no idea where to start looking. And to be honest if the self-checkout/return system is in use everywhere I really don’t even want to go.
It is also rather true that at present I don’t particularly need to go to the library. I have too many books to read at home at present. Or not too many, but… you know, a lot.
But it’s still a shame I so disliked the place. I would have so wanted to love it.