Today on Seth Godin’s blog, (see: I’m just not that kind of person), reader Craig asks why a friend of his chose to buy something other than a Dyson vacuum when the old Dyson Craig had given her finally went kaput. She loved the Dyson, Craig says…so why didn’t she get another? Seth’s theory:
Craig’s friend didn’t see herself as the kind of person who would buy a Dyson. Sure, she might use one, especially if it was free. But buying a weird, fancy-looking vacuum is an act of self-expression as much as it’s a way to clean your floors. And the act of buying one didn’t match the way his friend saw herself.
Now, lets take the pieces of that and insert “library” wherever it says “vacuum”:
[She] didn’t see herself as the kind of person who would [use the library]. Sure, she might use [the materials at a library like books, movies, music]. But [going into a library to get those things] is an act of self-expression as much as it’s a way to [get that information]. And the act of [visiting a library] didn’t match the way his friend saw herself.
Pretty eerily correct. I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I do feel rather superior every time I visit my public library to pick up a book or a movie. It’s as much a part of doing my duty as it is saving money on information. I’m a future-librarian, and as such, I see it as part of my duty to visit the library, even when my main branch library is pretty run down and has some interesting patronage I’m not usually exposed to. I believe a fellow-library student called it “nasty.” She said she wouldn’t go to the main branch because it was just “gross.” And as I was getting all riled up to tell her that it didn’t matter, I realized suddenly that it did. Just because she’s a
future-librarian [edit: she has a job in DC as a law librarian], too doesn’t mean she has to put up with unattractive surroundings and admittedly eclectic clientèle.
She doesn’t see herself as being a patron of that library. In otherwords, the library is not a reflection of herself. How could any self-respecting person want to be reflected in the main branch of the APL? It is nasty. She (and many others like her) have been disenfranchised simply because many of our older libraries are so unkempt. I’m not meaning to be harsh on the APL (thankfully, they’ve just gotten approval to have a new building constructed for the downtown main branch). But it’s a fact of life. If people can’t see themselves visiting a library, then they won’t visit the library.
It’s like Laura Schwartz, head of the Fine Arts Library at UT said: [paraphrase] “How do you renovate when you don’t have the money? You find the money.”
Bring on the grant-writing courses.