Posted by: bluesyemre | December 25, 2017

Everything is not fine in #Libraries -#JustineHyde


The State Library Victoria, Australia

My local library is a tiny outpost in the inner-north of Melbourne. It is a utilitarian and slightly shabby 1980s building with weeds growing up outside of it, perched on the slope of a noisy intersection between a pharmacy and a disappointing florist. The opening hours are brief. Inside it is dark and cramped. It has modest stock on the shelves: new release fiction, battered paperbacks, cookbooks, DIY, and children’s picture books.

Despite its lack of promise, the library is a portal to a world of reading because I can request books from the wider network of which it is a part. I order piles of books online from home and their arrival is staccato as they are returned one-by-one to the library by other borrowers. An email pings my iPhone when they are ready to collect, ready to add to my ever-towering reading pile.

When I arrive at the library I skim the shelf to find the books waiting for me, arranged alphabetically by borrower surnames. Each book is bound in an elastic band with a slip of paper tucked inside the front cover bearing my name. I take my haul to the self-checkout machine and scan the barcode of my membership card under the red laser light. A message pops up on the screen: I have a $1.50 fine for an overdue book, Elizabeth Harrower’s A Few Days in the Country. I never did get around to reading it. I returned it a few days late so it has cost me in fines.

Library fines can creep up on you. All it takes is for your child to lose a picture book down the back of the couch, or for you to get sick, or to go away on holiday, or to simply forget the book in the mess of life. In no time, the fines start growing.

I can pay the fine now or acknowledge the message and go ahead and borrow my stack. The library will let me accrue fifteen dollars worth of fines before it suspends my borrowing rights. I press ‘ok’ on the fines message and load my books on the scanner. They register as loans and I drop them into my canvas tote bag.


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