Jackson County Library Services
There seems to be a movement afoot in the Rogue Valley to bring back our library services to the pre 2007 levels--before the loss of funding and the six month closure followed my limited hours and staffing among other cutbacks. This would mean extending the hours of all 15 branches again. For example my Phoenix branch was once open six days a week for a minimum of six hours. When they opened back up in October 2007 the 'little' branches were given less than 20 hours per week spread among no more than three days and Phoenix was given three six hour days to enjoy the brand new building that was still under construction at the time of the closure. Even the two large branches in Ashland and Medford were given only five days and very truncated days at that.
And so it remains.
This situation contributes to my not having used our library services in nearly a year. Because of my failing eyesight I no longer feel safe making the walk by myself and because we no longer have a car my husband has not been able to just drop by on his way home from work to pick up my requests on the one day a week Phoenix branch is open past 5pm. We keep making tentative plans to make the nearly mile walk together on a Monday evening when Phoenix branch is open until 7pm but have never followed through and now it is the season he works ten hour days so he will not get off in time for that again until after Christmas.
Other factors include the fact that I've spent nearly half of this year up in Longview, WA helping my sister who is our mother's caregiver. On most of those several week visits she has checked out for me at one or more of the library systems she has access to: the Longview Library which is our childhood library, the Lower Columbia College Library and the Vancouver Library system which has a branch in Woodland just a twenty minute drive from Mom's.
This past November visit was only four weeks and I was busy with NaNo and those time-crunched crochet projects so I didn't go to the library nor order any books from them while I was there which means the last time I had books checked out was last June. The last time I had items out of our JCLS system was last January and they had all been checked out before Christmas last year. My sister helped me return an apple box full of books to the library on our way out of town for my January to March stay at Mom's. They were over fifty percent related to my NaNo novel for last year--writing craft and books about role-playing electronic gaming which I've never done myself so needed to research it for my POV character whose passion it was. I had serious intentions of getting every one of them back again in the weeks and months after I got back home. I would have been shocked and depressed if told that day that I still would not have done so eleven months later.
I must confess that one of the factors has been the embarrassment of having lost my library card during our move last December--for the second time in less than three months. I had found the first lost one during the packing for the move so I told myself that I would not replace the new one until I'd finished unpacking and sorting all of the books and papers, bags, purses, boxes and pockets that it might have ended up in. Eleven months later and that project, interrupted as it has been by the packing and unpacking for three extended stays at Mom's, is not completed tho I must say it is close to 90% done in terms of having unpacked and gone through everything if not completely sorted and organized all of the papers.
Then there has been my addiction to ebooks begun when I downloaded Kindle for PC last November in order to accept an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) and then discovered the plethora of free ebooks on amazon and then a few weeks later downloaded Adobe Digital Editions for another ARC and soon after downloaded Calibre which can read most of the other formats and keep my ebook library organized. Because of my visual impairment ebooks are a Godsend but they are not a complete substitute for everything I need a library for.
Free is the only cost for books our budget can withstand and tho there are many thousands of free ebooks available and the flow of ARCs both ebook and tree book has stepped up dramatically for me over the last year, none of that is a complete substitute for all that I depend on the public library for.
What has all of this to do with the theme of my Friday Forays in Fiction posts?
Beginning with the ability to keep up with the latest from my long list of favorite novelists and short story writers and to catch the debuts of new ones I would find on the new books shelf and to acquire those titles I discover on the book blogs and other reviewing resources online.
Then there is the role the library played in shaping my love for books, reading and story. Then the role it played in helping me study and write term papers through high-school and college, developing my love of story and writing and research. Then the role it played in my autodidact lifestyle in which I would choose subjects to immerse myself in for weeks or months which if not already chosen as research for a fiction WIP would often provide inspiration for one or more old or new ones. And of course there is the role of the librarians trained in reference sources and fact finding who along the way have helped me fine tune my searches or chase down an allusive fact or resource or introduce me to a resource I hadn't known was available.
Most import, my fiction WIP including this year's NaNo novel have suffered due to lack of regular public library access this past year. The Internet can lead me to titles of books and articles I need for research on topics and for fact checking needed for the WIP and research on craft and publishing but I'm rarely able to read them for free online. And when, as has been my practice, one wants to access upwards of one or two hundred titles per year, few budgets can accommodate that.
There are those who believe the Internet is a viable replacement for everything a library represents to an individual and their community and thus libraries are becoming obsolete and not worth funding. Aside from the fact that many of those who need free library services are only accessing the Internet at the library this is a woefully ignorant viewpoint, as besot by tunnel vision as are my own RP diseased eyes.
What role has your public library played in your life? In developing or sustaining your love for reading and/or writing fiction? In your own blogging habits? In the raising of your children to love story? How much of that can the Internet as you now know it replace?
This may be the first of a series of posts in which I explore these and other questions and topics related to the role of a free public library system in communities as our own community begins a new dialog on what ours means to us and the level of funding we are willing to sustain.