Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Two book-related things today that have me all in a dither:

1. Amazon hasn't put the MacMillan titles back yet. There's a book I need for class and I need it next week. None of the local library systems I use carry it. I can't get to an independent until this weekend, when we're supposed to get 17 inches feet of snow, so even if they ARE open, I won't be able to get there. I could get to Barnes and Noble tomorrow night, but they don't have it at the store, so I had to order it from their website. And pay shipping. (I have Amazon Prime. I don't pay for shipping.) Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

2. I live within walking distance of a branch of my local library. Given that I spend all day every day at a different library in a different system, I usually don't browse. I usually just look up books that my work-system doesn't own or has a long wait for, and put them on hold in my home-system. I went to pick up a book after work today (Yes, I went from one library to another. I am that nerdy.) Now, they have all the hold books on shelves near the check out desk so you can just go over and find yours and bring it up to the desk. I know this is a hot new trend in libraries right now but...

I will probably STOP using the Arlington libraries because of this. It is such a HUGE breach of reader's privacy and given that I pretty much ONLY use them for hold books and I just can't agree to this system... bad bad bad. Yes, they shelve the books spine down, so it's harder to see what the books are, but that just makes it easier to see who has a book on hold and it's not that hard to flip through and see who's requesting what.

Personally, I'm not very private in my reading habits (which you know, as I blog about EVERYTHING I read right here) but the principle of the thing has me very shaken up and upset and pissed off.

I'm more annoyed at the Amazon/MacMillan thing because they're private businesses and while they're both being stupid, well, it's business and they can do that.

The library, however, is breaking the ALA's Code of Ethics:

We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.

So, I will be writing a letter to the director of the system and seriously rethinking my library use (Because, I do spend all day at another system, so I'm a bit privileged here, I know.)

But here's the thing-- just two years ago, Arlington libraries had a PR flap about this very thing. And, unlike the branch in the article, these books had no covering, the only concession made to privacy was the books being shelved spine down, which may have not had anything to do with privacy at all-- it makes finding your name (and your neighbor's) much easier...


Emilia said...

DC libraries do open hold shelves too. It bothered me too. So - here, here.

Alison (Alison's Book Marks) said...

I only just started using my library more (once I figured out how to reserve books online). This open hold bookshelf would irk me too. I'm sure a strongly written letter or two should change things.

The Amazon/MacMillan debacle ticks me off. The upside in this whole thing is that maybe more people will search out their local independently-owned bookshops, and keep our neighbors in business.

Katie said...

I don't use my home library because they have an open hold shelf and because I hate it so much. I only request books at the library I work at (which still has the hold shelf behind the desk).

Badgergirl said...

My library has a similar system. The books are shelved and a piece of masking tape is marked with the first three letters of your last name and the last three numbers of your library account number. I guess I've never thought about if it should bother me.

Andrea said...

Hi! Just found your blog through the YALSA listserv. When I used to live in Seattle, the hold books were out on shelves for patrons to pick up, but they were only marked by the first three letters of the last name. I liked this system better than my new city's, where you have to approach the circ desk, ask for your books and wait for the clerk to find them. But if they had been marked by full name on the open shelves, I might have felt differently.

Also, I think you should send Amazon a note to let them know about your disappointment in not being able to order the book from them. Maybe I will, too! They lost a sale from me for the same reason.

Jennie said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one bothered by this!

Alison-- those of us who live near other bookstores will probably use them, but not everyone has that luxury, which is sad.

Katie-- the super nice thing about books on hold at work is they actually get hand delivered to my desk, already checked out to me. I work with some super-helpful awesome people. The sad thing is that I usually use Arlington libraries for books I can't get at work without ILLing them from across the state. Or like yesterday, when I *finally* got my hands on a copy of Ash. I've been on the hold list at work for 2 months and it was going to be even longer before it was my turn, but there was only a 3 day wait in Arlington. But, there are also reader privacy issues at work. Not because of how my system does it, but because every person who handles a holds book for me knows exactly who I am and what I eat for lunch and how crabby I am before my morning coffee etc etc... and there are some books I get in Arlington because I don't want everyone I work with to know I'm reading it.

Badgergirl-- See, this isn't even the first three letters of my last name and part of my card. The books are marked with your entire last name and as much of your first name as they can fit on the slip. Also, I'm guessing you've never had to sit through lectures on the ALA's code of ethics, or the importance of library privacy. :)

Andrea-- I don't mind having the staff search for my book, given that I have to go up to the circ desk anyway to check it out. I would be a lot less upset if it were my library card number or just part of my last name or something similar. Also, when I get my book from B&N, I will be sending the sales slip to Amazon and saying see! Here's $10 that could have and would have been yours! Your childish actions didn't stop me from buying a MacMillan title, just buying it from you/

Lisa said...

Our library has open shelves but it's just the first two letters of your last name and the last x #s of your library card. I don't mind it at all.

Amanda said...

During a brief stay in Albuquerque last year, I noticed that their system does the same thing with hold books and though I didn't participate in placing holds there, I remember having a debate with my husband over why open shelves irritated me so much. I think a lot of people don't see it as an issue until they personally request a title they would rather others not know they're requesting.

MotherReader said...

Fairfax County does the same thing as Arlington. It's funny that I never really thought about the privacy aspect until now. Like you, I was so used to having every book I put on hold known to every member of the staff that I kinda forgot about privacy issues for holds.

You are so right though about protecting people's privacy, and at the same time I also know that with budget cutbacks there is no way that they are going to put the book behind the counter again. But maybe they could change it so your whole name doesn't show up on the slip. (And then patrons would complain about that, I suspect.)