Sunday, May 28, 2006

library woes

Inshallah, infidels.
NSA dudes, I assume you internet and email folks are separate from the library records people, but you must have coffee breaks together. Or maybe you go out and smoke together (what, I wouldn’t presume).
Anyway, if you wouldn’t mind passing this on to the library department, I’d be grateful.
Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda (just to keep your attention).
I’ve got a suspicion that the folks at the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library are lazy. I’m sure you guys at the NSA know all about sinecures (because, come on, we all know how many terrorists you will be catching by tracing library records and emails and phone calls and whatnot).
Anyway, every time I request a book to be sent to my branch (you know which one, I’m sure, on top of your game as you are), I get a notice in my email saying they can’t locate the book. And we both know this is bullshit, right?
Without fail. If I request a book from another branch, it arrives eventually. Or at least it takes a week or so for the email saying they couldn’t find it to arrive, making it appear that they’ve at least made an effort to locate my requested material.
Not so at the Central branch. Request made, two days pass, inbox says: can’t find it.
I was at said branch last Wednesday and checked out several Tintin books (Madge was sick, you may recall, and needed entertainment – she’s better now, thanks for your concern, NSA folk). Of the four Tintin’s we were checking out, the checkout lady confiscated two, saying they were on hold for someone else. (The checkout lady, btw, was very nice and recommended her grandmother’s West-Indian cure-all of rice-water for Madge’s chickenpox.)
But there were two other copies of each Tintin ON THE SHELF. Lazy sumbitches, I tell you. If that’s not proof, I don’t know what is. That’s the only way they fill requests at that branch. If someone happens to try to check out or return a copy of the requested item, they’ll snag it and in turn lose it in transit on the way to the requester (I’ve got a book coming to me, the record for which has been saying “in transit” for a month now).
Of the places I’ve lived recently, Minneapolis has been best about getting holds to the customer. SF has been fast, too, but often the items turned up lost – which isn’t surprising, given the abuse the branches seem to take there. New York was fairly crappy about it and Brooklyn isn’t much better.
And why, in Allah’s name, is the Brooklyn library system separate from the New York one (which includes Queens and the Bronx, if I’m not mistaken)? Is Brooklyn too good for Manhattan’s books? Won’t Manhattan share? It’s anti-semitism, isn’t it?
But listen to me, complaining about a free service. Well, free, at least. Which is my point.
It must infuriate you to no end so have the libraries by run so sloppily. Don’t you think it’s an effort to thwart your investigations? You might look into it.
And if you happen to run across a copy of the Oxford Anthology of English Verse (very sub-versive stuff, hyuk, hyuk), send it my way. You know where to find me.
Good luck in nabbing the bad guys and convincing yourselves you’re the good guys, NSA.
Night, night.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

Hi Goedi,

I work for the library system in question, but I’m not in any position of authority or any type of official spokesperson, just a regular front-line librarian who cares. I completely understand your frustration at not being able to get the books you request, but I know some of the “behind the scenes” reasons why and wanted to let you know.

There is currently a catalog inventory project underway in the Central Library and all of the branches. Because the catalog hasn't been kept up very well, until someone physically goes to look for the book on the shelf, we don't know it's missing. As we progress with the 2-year, very overdue project, in the future those books that are actually missing wouldn't show up in the catalog any more.

There is a book-in-hand policy with regards to holds. The patron with the book in hand is supposed to be given priority over the patron who placed the hold, but whose book hasn’t been “trapped” yet for that hold. If BPL knew which branch it was, administration could remind staff at that location of that policy. You may wish to write an online complaint at,

Also, our reservation system is only 2 years old. We have built it from scratch based upon the previous inadequate system. To compare our library system to that of Minneapolis is not entirely fair. They have a population of 382,618 where Brooklyn has nearly 2.5 million.

And finally, the reason that BPL is separate from NYPL and Queens is that we are a distinct non-profit agency whose roots go back to before the consolidation of 5 boroughs into one city. Each of the 3 New York City library systems uses a different catalog system that would be exorbitantly expensive to merge. Plus, trying to operate a system that would include 203 branches seems like it would be very difficult!

I hope this helps!