Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dallas Libraries Charge for Hot Titles

Frequent users of public libraries are familiar with long waits for bestsellers. I use the Houston Public Library quite a bit, and I've faced some long waits recently:
  • Dangerous Laughter by Stephen Millhauser (3 months and counting)
  • A Mercy by Toni Morrison (about a month)
  • The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher (3 weeks)
  • The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (about 2 months)

If I'm waiting three months for Millhauser's Dangerous Laughter, imagine what the wait time is for Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.

The Dallas Public Library has started a new program to combat long waitlists: StreetSmart Express. A large number of copies of popular books and DVDs are available for check-out for $5 each. Items that are less in-demand remain free. As reported in the Dallas Morning News, library officials designed the program "to eliminate or shorten wait times for people who want to borrow popular titles rather than pay hefty retail costs." Since the launch of StreetSmart Express in October, library customers have spent $10,405 on 2,081 items. For their $5, StreetSmart users can keep books for three weeks and DVDs for one week, the same time allotted to free items.


Serena said...

o my word! that's crazy...though I guess it will help those not interested in waiting for popular books, but with this economy, I'll stick with the free library services.

Steph said...

I think I would prefer this system if it were an option, rather than a requirement. Like, you can pay $5 and get the book immediately (I'd assume you can't pay to take out the book if other people have it borrowed), or you can not pay the $5 and be added to a traditional (extremely) long queue. Sort of like those theme park passes that cost extra but let you jump the line. They're not obligatory, but if you are so inclined, are a bonus.

Petunia said...

My library has a rental system for popular new books. You can "rent" the book for one week for $0.50. You are limited to what's in stock at that particular library though so the selection is quite small. But my son was able to read the last Harry Potter book that way.

Stephanie said...

I asked at my local library (I live in a town of about 12,000 people) what the list for Twilight was. The answer was, "Over 400 people."

This is why I don't usually read insanely popular books! I'm quite content to wait. I do agree, though, that Dallas's program would be better as an option- paying would get you bumped up to the head of the line. Seems like the way they're handling it, anyone wanting to read a popular book is fiscally punished.

An Anonymous Child said...

I feel like this is blasphemy, but the problem is one that needs to be tackled. I absolutely hate having to wait for months and months at an end just to read a book. Personally, I'd prefer it if libraries stocked more. Still, this idea is weirdly intriguing. It completely defeats the idea of the free library and gives preference to those who are willing to drop bucks for this (five bucks versus 15 to buy it?). Interesting news, though. I hadn't encountered this.