When I’m not helping my co-workers save the world with mad research and technology skills, I’m probably at the customer service desk, picking up books I’ve requested. Much like the star of that classic, oft-ridiculed Hair Club for Men commercial, “I’m also a client.”
A library client, that is. My hair is doing just fine, thank you. But, I digress!
Sometimes, when I’m waiting in line, people will ask me why my library card has a different design on it. Eagerly I leap on the opportunity to talk about the Donor Plus card, only to be met with puzzled stares. Why on earth would anybody pay for a library card? After all, the library is “free to the people” – it even says so above the front door. What gives?
For me personally, it was a no-brainer. According to the Library Use Calculator, I have $750.00 worth of books checked out on my library card right now. That’s more than twice as much as my monthly student loan payment! Given that I’m always at the maximum book checkout limit, that means that, at any given time, I’m walking around with $750.00 worth of public property, with almost no strings attached (except for those pesky fines that I inevitably rack up)! Considering everything I get out of the library, I feel it’s only good civic sense to give a little back.
Granted, I’m pretty fortunate in that the small fee for a Donor Plus card isn’t an unreasonable expense for me. This is not true of everyone, and it certainly wasn’t true for me when I moved to Pittsburgh twelve years ago. So I totally understand if the classic free card is more in line with your budget. If you are in a good financial place right now, though, upping your membership is analogous to buying bonds, or collecting scrap metal: a small, yet potent, blow in the ongoing War Against Ignorance.
If the “warm and fuzzy” approach doesn’t motivate you, let’s get concrete: check out the Donor Plus page, which lists some pretty spiffy benefits–if you’re a coffee drinker, the card pays for itself in practically no time. And if that’s still not enough incentive for you, here’s a list of library services you might not be aware of, just to help seal the deal.
- Book recommendations from professional librarians. Why trust your reading preferences to an impersonal algorithm when you can peruse thoughtful, literate book reviews? Want something more specific? Fill out the handy dandy recommendation form to get reading suggestions tailored to your specific tastes!
- Playaways. Quite possibly the coolest invention ever, Playaways are pre-loaded mp3 players you can borrow. Just add a AAA battery and a pair of headphones, and you’re all set to listen to classic fiction, language lessons, or just about anything else that might tickle your fancy.
- A never-ending stream of electronic innovation. If you haven’t seen the What’s New page yet, click on over and see some of the exciting services the library has rolled out over the past few months. Subscribe to the RSS feed and get updates as they’re posted!
- Access to government information. As Gwen explained the other day, the Carnegie Library is a Federal Depository Library. Although the GPO is issuing more and more publications online, there’s a lot of data still in print and on microfilm, and we’ve got it. Exercise your citizenship to the hilt with some gov docs!
In addition to all of the great materials and services the library offiers you for your Donor Plus buck, you have access to approximately 140 human resources at CLP Main, many of whom work quietly behind the scenes, and are far too modest to tell you about it. Scott, for example, will never tell you that he’s currently ranked #2 in the state for answering questions on AskHere PA, or that he spends a lot of time repairing and processing damaged books. Marianne, Bill, Gen, and Mykal are just four of the people who make sure your books and materials are pulled from the shelves, and reshelved properly–and no, they don’t use elfin magic to “get ‘er done.” And Cathy, bless her, is part of the team that works hard to keep our webpage current and organized. Add on the many, many people who serve in the branch libraries, and…well…it takes a lot of people to run your library, and your support helps all of those people serve you more efficiently and effectively.
Okay, Ira Glass I’m not. I hope, however, I’ve at least given you a little something to think about. Maybe we could discuss it next time you’re in the library–after all, intelligent, informed debate is the cornerstone of a democratic society! Just look for the tall, bleary-eyed woman in black, cradling an armful of books, the one who was clearly up too late last night reading.
who would give all the current Donor Plus cardholders a thank-you hug, except that this would be neither prudent nor practical.