I popped into my local library today to return City of Ashes and saw this poster at the counter (see right). These criteria basically cover everything that I order in at my library, and I’ve ordered in something at least twice a month lately. Up till now we’ve been able to order in 60 books a year (basically one a week) if the library didn’t have the title we wanted in stock. (Note, that these changes are affecting Western Australia, I don’t know the policy in other locations)
I’m upset, not just for myself, but for other readers that these changes will affect. My fantastic librarian said that they were accepting feedback from library users on the changes and would be given an opportunity to present this feedback at the end of the year. She asked me to send her an email to give to the State Library and the Public Libraries WA Group which I wasted no time in writing. I thought I’d blog about this today because I’d personally like to see other readers voice concerns they may have with the changes to the State Library and the Public Libraries WA Group too. If enough of us give them our legitimate concerns, perhaps when they review the changes at the end of the year we can get them to change their mind.
I think that the changes to the Inter-Library Loans program are detrimental to both the Library and it’s users. Some of these changes may not have such a disastrous effect in a metropolitan environment where users may have the ability to be members of multiple libraries, but in a rural environment these changes limit the accessibility of library resources. Libraries are already suffering from an image of antiquity and these changes will fuel this image. With items less than 12 months old no longer being viable for the loans program, low income readers, elderly readers, junior readers, rural readers and other readers who are unable to purchase or borrow items will find that new releases from their favourite authors, or new releases they would have been interested in, will no longer be available to them if their library cannot stock the items themselves.
With Junior and Young Adult titles removed from the loans program what incentive is there to Junior/Young Adult readers, who do not have an income with which to purchase their own books, to return to the library once they have exhausted the books of interest available to them? If readers cannot access the titles that interest them through their local library they will stop using it. Likewise, with the decline in services such as Blockbuster and Video-Ezy, where are people going to be able to borrow a movie to watch? Not all Library patrons have the access or inclination to use streaming services. In rural areas internet access can be patchy at best and this limits the use of newer technologies such as e-readers, computers and internet streaming services. Likewise, some elderly patrons cannot or will not use these services. My grandmother is an avid user of her local library and has never in her life owned a computer. She has not even owned a television in the last fifty years, and no, that is not an exaggeration.
(Left; an example of YA books that are no longer available to be requested in.)
I have the ability to look at these changes from a two-fold perspective; that of a reader and that of an author. Authors who are indie-published, or who are not yet well-known will find these changes detrimental as well. As a relatively unknown indie author reaching my target audience has suddenly become much harder with these changes. There are three library copies of my book currently in circulation, one at the National Library in Canberra (and that is not simply because it was a legal requirement), one at the State Library and one at my local library. If readers cannot buy or borrow my book, then they cannot read it. I will not be the only author affected thus. It is unlikely that Library purchasers would be inclined to buy additional copies of my book because at this time there is no demand for additional copies. Indie Authors and new authors will be disadvantaged by these changes, being unable to grow their readership through library programs and recommendations. As an Indie Author I cannot afford to donate copies of my book to every library otherwise I would. It costs me money to have copies printed and I cannot recoup those costs when I donate a book.
As an author my main genre is Urban Fantasy, and most authors who write these books write them for YA. While I do not write YA, it is important for me as an author to learn from what other authors in the genre have done or are doing. You wouldn’t expect Stieg Larsson to have never picked up a copy of Sherlock Holmes or an Agatha Christie. My paying job is part time, and I literally make no money Indie-publishing my books. The last two financial years I operated my business at a loss, using my own funds to make up the differences I needed for business costs. I cannot afford to continually buy books written by other authors in my genre because all of my disposable income is reinvested in my publishing, advertising and other business costs. Being able to borrow such titles at my local library has been an extremely important resource for me and now that resource is being taken away.
I live in rural Western Australia. The second closest library is 60kms away from me and not a resource I am likely to be able to use consistently. This leaves me only with options to sign up to subscription-based services such as Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library or its equivalents. The Kindle Owner’s Lending Library is relatively not that expensive, usually $6.99(AUD) a month, however you can only borrow one book a month, and a voracious reader like me will often read a book or more a week.
In my email I’ve asked the State Library and the Public Libraries WA Group to reconsider this initiative as it will be detrimental to so many library users. Whilst libraries serve many more functions than just a book borrowing service, that is the public’s immediate mental connection to the word “library”. Libraries are a vital resource whose patronage is already declining. It would be sad for that decline to be fueled by removing our ability to request the resources that we want to use.
If you want more information on the changes this is the page describing them on the State Library of Western Australia’s website.