Not everyone takes advantage of their public library, especially in this electronic age of abundant reference, but I have always tried to make use of the free services offered by this institution. Did I say "free?" I did, and I like "free" very much. Now, how does the library system in New Brunswick stack up with those I have used elsewhere?
The only real reference point I have to compare the New Brunswick Public Library Service to are the Halifax Public Libraries. The first thing to note is that in New Brunswick the libraries are provincial (then broken into regions) while Halifax services only the municipality. There are fourteen branches for Halifax compared to 70 branches in New Brunswick and ten in the Fundy region, where I reside.
The Saint John main branch is particularly gorgeous, at least from the outside beyond the semi-stocked shelves. It is located inside Market Square, an upscale uptown mall that also houses the New Brunswick Museum. There is an unusual penchant to place the libraries in shopping malls here.
Everyone knows about books at the library, right? Anyway, today's libraries also sport music CDs, movies, computer/Internet time, and much more. If a movie has been released to DVD, I was able to get it in Halifax. If the library didn't have the latest CD by Tori Amos, I could request that they purchase it and I would be first on the list to enjoy it. I often wondered how Blockbuster was able to stay in business when the Halifax library had 66 copies of The King's Speech in its system. Oh, wait, they filed for bankruptcy protection. Did I mention "free?"
The available material, or lack thereof, in my new home has been a big adjustment. I think they may be adjusting to me too. The librarian at my branch already seems to know my name, as all I have to do is appear at the counter and she goes to the shelf to see what's there for me. That's not a bad thing, but I have to admit I preferred going to my spot under the T's amidst the many shelving units of requested material on hold in Halifax.
Then I was able to check myself out. This option exists at the Saint John main branch, but not at mine. Come to think of it, I've never actually seen anyone use the self-serve machine at the main branch. Does anyone borrow things here? It's "free."
Having a smaller, less developed entity doesn't go without some advantages. I was deer-in-the-headlights surprised to learn that the due date for borrowed material - remember that grade school librarian that made school life miserable and wreaked havoc on your pristine relationship with your teacher if you forgot to get a book back on time? - is really just a suggestion. You don't get fined when you're a little late. I'm not lying. I haven't had to nerve to test just how far this envelope can be pushed.
Today I returned three items. Upon arriving home and sitting down to work I received a phone call - private caller. It was my librarian informing me that the Lady Gaga "Born This Way" CD (oh, the shame) wasn't in its case and I should check my CD player, which was exactly where it was hiding. This definitely beats being informed that you owe $40.25 in fines on top of the purchase price when this little stunt plays out in Halifax.
My next test of the system will be to make a suggestion for purchase. They foolishly gave me the email address where this could be done. Stay tuned.