From the Head Librarian
Since I became Head Librarian a little over 3 years ago, I’ve been inviting small groups of members to join me for coffee and conversation, and I continue to value all the one on one exchanges I have with many of you at the Reference Desk, at events, and in the elevator. All our staff members, especially the Circulation Department, are also eager listeners and problem solvers. We are always interested to hear how you think we’re doing and what we could be doing better.
In addition, two years ago, a committee of staff and trustees developed a survey which we used to gather a more comprehensive and unfettered picture of our service to members. We were relieved to discover that there were no significant issues. But you did tell us about small procedural irritations, provided helpful suggestions for improvement, and passed on ideas for new programs and services.
Some of your suggestions are easy to implement and others take more time and consideration. We’ve already increased the speed and reliability of the Wi-Fi, added features to the website to make joining, renewing, and registering for events more user friendly, and increased occasions to connect with your fellow members, like Teatime, Happy Hour, and “meet your next book club” events. Here’s what’s new and what we’re working on:
In September, we launched the e-membership category, a new, lower-cost membership for those primarily interested in our electronic resource offerings: e-books, digital magazines, audiobooks, and electronic databases.
We now offer $20 Day Passes for those who want to try out the Library before joining and guest passes are available for those who want to give a unique and inexpensive gift to a fellow bibliophile. Note that ever conscious of the increased use of the Library, we have limited the number of these passes that can be redeemed in a day.
Speaking of space issues, we know that the Hornblower Room is getting more crowded – especially midday Mondays through Wednesdays. When we identify that the Hornblower Room is close to full, Circulation staff are proactively redirecting members to less utilized places to work and study, and we are currently investigating both short-term and long-range possibilities for increasing member space.
We will begin issuing membership cards to all members over age nine in 2019. While we know that many of you will welcome cards as an improvement in the Library check-in and the book check-out process, we also know that some of you like things just the way they are. So if you don’t want or need a membership card, just let us know. Membership card or not, we will continue to greet you by name and with the friendly welcome you have come to expect.
The membership card project has an added benefit in that members will be able to check in and check out books under their own name rather than that of their spouse or partner or parent.
We heard you when you told us that the household membership requirement that has been in place for many years was not only unusual, but unfair. It provided the impetus we needed to review and develop a new membership structure. Beginning January 1, 2019, we are launching new membership categories that will allow you to choose a category that works best for your situation at renewal time.
As many of you know, financial realities have compelled us to raise rates every other year for some time, and unfortunately, this year is no different. Membership fees cover only 25% of our operating costs (the remaining 50% comes from our endowment and 25% from contributions) and expenses for building upkeep, staff, and electronic resources, in particular, continue to rise steadily. At less than a dollar a day for a family, we believe that our membership fees are still exceptionally reasonable for all that the Library offers. And with our new category structure, two-person households will pay the same fee they have since 2017.
A member recently shared with me a line from the introduction to poet Susan Howe’s book The Birth-Mark, in which she writes “I go to libraries because they are the ocean.” Indeed, the sea is a great metaphor for the riches and mystery to be found in libraries. As we expand the possibilities for what our Library offers and how we serve our members, I want to continue to hear from you. Please stop by. My door is always open.