Saturday, 23 February 2013

The new library catalogue

which encompasses all the public libraries in the state has a number of advantages. The biggest advantage for me is that I can now browse the catalogue and borrow books from any public library in the state. If a book is available then, eventually it will find its way to my local library - and thus to me.
I have no idea how many people are actually using this service - or how often. I suspect it was done with the thought of saving money rather than the convenience of library users. You can spend less on books (and a little more on petrol) by having fewer copies available to more people.
I do wonder how long it will last but I will use the system while I can. I have caught up on some books I missed out on and some books I felt I needed to read.
I can also use it "browse" and borrow books I know I probably will not read but need to see. Our libraries do not contain that many knitting books. They are quite possibly sixty or seventy times the number of cookery books in our libraries. 
It is, for some reason, assumed that people do not knit - or rather, that not many people knit. We rarely get a new knitting book on the local library shelves. This is despite the fact that a knitting group meets in the library - will meet today in fact.
As I am also the librarian for the state's knitting guild it is difficult to buy new books. I must often rely on reading what others have to say about them. Sometimes the members suggest something - or show me something they have bought for themselves. These things do not substitute for being able to take a thoroughly good look at the books myself before I decide whether the book has enough to offer guild members. I know many members just want patterns but books need to offer more than that.
Now I can borrow and look at some books at my leisure before deciding whether they might be a useful addition to our library. I can talk to one or two members of the guild whose knowledge and judgment I trust too. 
There was a book which promised "55 patterns" but, as I suspected it might, it turned out to be one pattern and 55 graphs. No, we decided, we won't bother with that because it will not add  something different to the library. 
There was a "beginner" book intended for children. It turned out to be a sixty year old reprint that no modern child would use.
Another book had disappointing patterns in the sense that they would not be made or used here. Our climate does not need that sort of knitting. Nevertheless the book had some outstandingly good material on techniques. We might have missed that if I had not been able to borrow it. A copy is on order because we decided that the technique material justified it.
"You're using the catalogue like a bookshop," someone told me. Yes, I am. Our local bookshop is limited in what it can hold in the way of stock. All shops are but ours is particularly limited. They are very good about trying to get books but I cannot ask them to get books "on approval". I do look whenever they tell me they have something new. Sometimes they give me a catalogue from one of their suppliers and say, "Which would you suggest we get?"
I know at that point they are relying on my knowledge of authors and the reputation of authors and companies and on what the on-line communities are saying. It is not a substitute for actually seeing the book although somewhere along the line someone has to make a judgment without seeing the actual book. Most of us though need to see the book before we make the final decision.
It is why we need libraries and bookshops 

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