The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

Should libraries charge reading groups for book loans?

on January 18, 2012

Unlike many reading groups (where members purchase a copy of the book to discuss) in Dorset we are fortunate to have the support of the library service. Book groups in the county can reserve up to twelve copies of available books (there is a list of titles to select from – all texts are over a year old) and the books are loaned for an extended period of eight weeks.  Sets of books are collected from a local branch although due to the County Council funding cuts there are considerably fewer libraries than previously.

Enquiries were recently made to all 360 reading groups in Dorset to ask whether members would be willing to make a voluntary financial contribution for this service. 110 reading groups responded to the consultation with 83% indicating that they would be prepared to make a donation.  In my reading group much discussion continues. While the service is excellent, there is a concern that donations may subsidise other aspects of the library service rather than being a dedicated support for reading groups. There may also be a review of income generated by voluntary contributions to consider whether a set fee should be applied. Does this lead us along the slippery path of  requiring payment for any book loan? Perhaps this is an over-reaction but I’d be interested in hearing your views.  Please use the comments box to contribute to the discussion.

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5 responses to “Should libraries charge reading groups for book loans?

  1. very important points made, Gail. x Oh and my own post on India is up now. Lots of pics too.

  2. Pauline Howard says:

    I suppose the original idea of public libraries has passed, but for children they are still invaluable. However, with all the cuts in this area, free books could well soon be a thing of the past. I do hope not.

    • gailaldwin says:

      When I worked in Southwark we did a massive amount of work with the library in order to encourage children and adults to use the service. For some families, particularly vulnerable families, the library was a lifeline.

  3. As the library will buy more copies of the book than they otherwise would, I think it’s reasonable for reading groups to help toward the cost of this. You suggest the money raised might go to other library projects – have you considered that buying these books diverts money away from those same projects?

    • gailaldwin says:

      Good point, Patsy. I’ll need to ask if this is the case but the library haven’t raised it as an issue. With 40 branches to serve (although unfortunately the number is now reduced) there are frequently multiple copies of books held in any case. It’s true that libraries do serve the community in many different ways, including computers access, audio books, DVDs etc.

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