Saturday, October 19, 2013

Library DNA

This way to your local library!
Those of us that love and support libraries, particularly public libraries, have the ability to find the trail to a public library regardless of the circumstances. It doesn't matter how challenging the driving experience! 

Last week I was waiting at a stoplight on a step upgrade. I was intently watching the stoplight and anxiously anticipating that one moment I would have to release the parking brake, engage the gas pedal, and get moving before I suffered the ire of the South African taxi drivers for not moving fast enough. And I saw it, well worn and standing a little crooked, but there it was -- the universal sign that is welcomed by all library junkies!  

Despite an already long day, I turned and followed the library directional sign. Unable to find the library after crisscrossing back and forth across a number of blocks, I finally headed home and engaged Google. After learning that the Linden Library is now located just a few blocks from my guesthouse on 6th street I stopped by last Saturday to get my library fix. 

The exterior of the library is a bit forbidding. An 8 foot high metal fence encircles the library and the small parking lot. In addition, every entrance and window is layered with security bars to prevent theft and vandalism. At first glance it seems a bit much. However, the parking lot attendant/security guard's plastic yard chair was stolen when I was there last week. So who am I to question the library's security measures.

Ignore the fortress!
The parking lot attendant ensures that only library patrons park in the parking lot. So don't even think about combining a visit to the cafe next door with your library visit. The attendant and sign reminded me of my Galesburg Public Library days and suggests that insufficient patron parking appears to be a universal problem for urban public libraries.   

If you ignore the security features and focus on the mural and the garden, it is a pleasant entrance to the library. 

I spent a fair bit of time engaging with the used book sale in the library lobby. The fare was the usual popular fiction and non-fiction, especially biographies. American authors, including the likes of James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Tom ClancyTami Hoag, and Nicholas Sparks, were prevalent. I found a few of my favorite British authors scattered in the mix as well. The unusual feature was the inclusion of used jigsaw puzzles in the sale. With "negotiable" prices ranging from $1 to $3 US I couldn't resist adding a murder mystery to my growing bedside table collection. 

The Library Director was very friendly and we spent some talking about general library issues. She was having a particularly frustrating day with the SIRSI ILS. As a result, we spent 1/2 hour talking about the Evergreen ILS and other open source possibilities. Given how little the libraries were demanding from the SIRSI ILS, it might have been more about the overtaxed and underdeveloped South African internet service provider than SIRSI. But that didn't stop me from spreading the Evergreen word! I completed the library card application, which required a copy of my passport, guest house registration, and international driver's license. 

The Linden Library packs a lot of activity in a small space. The one floor library includes three good-size study table areas, two comfortable seating areas, and a children's area. The central service area includes both reference and circulation. The library does not provide public access computers. A project the library would like to take on as funding and connectivity issues resolve. 

The library's collection is predominantly print; providing materials in both English and
Afrikaans. The non-print collection includes children's VHS movies and a few adult materials in the form of music cds and VHS movies. DVD and audio books (CD) items were minimal.

In the children's area I found an Afrikaans translation of If I Was You, by Richard Hamilton, illustrated by Babette Cole, one of my favorite illustrators.

Babette Cole's unmistakable illustrative style.

This morning the library was humming with activity when I stopped by to pick up my new library card. My library card enables me to check out four books, one puzzle, and one audio-visual item. If I want to take six books at a time I will need to leave a cash deposit. I limited myself to Jeremy Gordin's biography of South Africa's President Zuma and two novels by South African author Christopher Hope. Given the early nightfall and my technologically challenged relationship with the television, I may give serious consideration to checking out a puzzle next time.

Since I had just signed an agreement to follow the library's rules, I moved my car from the library lot to nearby street parking to check-out the arts & craft vendors and the very clever coffee bar across the street.  

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