Last year my city's branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL on the streets) suffered tragic losses during an odd and epic flood, and had to undergo a huge renovation. Before, the library was alright. The selection of books and music was not nearly as good as it is at other branches of CCPL. Creepy old men sat in the back, where the romance novels shared a corner with YA materials. Poor planning, really. I was always grateful to have a library just five minutes from my home--I could walk there on a nice day. Still, before the flood, it always left me feeling a little empty.
Now, the Brecksville Branch is sexed up. We've got tall, oak stacks, carved with leafy designs. They're staggered and spaced so the whole building can finally breathe. Things are rearranged for easy access. The DVDs and the CDs aren't on opposite sides anymore--they're close to the door--so people who are afraid of books don't have to step too far into the realm of the scary written word.
My favorite thing about our branch now is that it's totally self-service now. You scan your card and your items. You remove the little plastic security devices and deposit them into a few specially-marked colored bins. You print out your receipt. And you also pick up your "held" items off of a giant shelf.
On this shelf, items are arranged alphabetically, according to the last name of the person who requested them. I simply search for "DES" in the group and pull out the stuff I've waited for. But the best part is, I get to see what the guy next to me requested. Today, I found a young person, whose name starts with "DER", who I suspect is just discovering Daft Punk (there were four different albums bundled together.) My friend whose last name starts with "DEM" requested the last Harry Potter book (and by "last" I mean the most recent one--not the last of the series, which some of my friends are itching their skin off for.)
I get to judge people based on their interests without even having to have a conversation with them! How cool is that?!
Of course, I guess this works the other way too. People are probably judging me. This means that if I ever need to borrow a Michael Bolton album (for whatever reason), I'd better just drive to whichever branch has it and pick it up. Folks I know might see it on the holdshelf and disown me. And then there was that time last summer when I read about Stetson Kennedy's fascinating infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan, and decided to study the Klan's history as a result. I took so many Klan books from the library, I'm probably being watched by the government or something. What if those books were out in the open on the holdshelf and people saw them? Is this some sort of invasion of privacy?
Maybe not. Maybe it just makes it easier for creepsters like me to relate to strangers with the same taste. I think the "DOL" person with the Abe Lincoln biography on hold could be my new best friend.
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