things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #17

A customer comes to the reference desk to ask about Zinio. I tell him that Zinio allows him to get full access to hundreds of magazines, all at zero cost, through his library account. His eyes light up.

"This is all free?"

"Yes, it's completely free. Do you use a computer at home?" He does.

"Do you have a tablet, by any chance?" Even better, he does.

I show him how he can create an account, then sort magazines by language or interest, then download or read anything he wants.

"When I was growing up in my country, my brother and I walked 12 kilometres to the library. The names of the books were written on little cards. The librarian would write our names on the cards. We would read the books like this." He pantomimes opening a book a tiny bit, to preserve the spine. "And now, look at this..." He sweeps his arm to take in the entire library. "There is so much here." He shakes his head, speechless. "So much. It is so wonderful."


HillbillyInBC said...

Those last four words summarize this story so well. Reminds me of my youth deep in the backwoods of Appalachia, when my favourite moments of all were those Saturdays when my mom would take me into town and drop me off at the modest little public library while she went to work half a day at the local bank. Sometimes I wonder if the folks working there who indulged me for so many hours ever knew what a profound effect they had on my life.

Anonymous said...

It's time for a rethink on this.
'Free' is not really 'free'.
Most of these magazines are extensions of massive media conglomerates that don't need public dollars.
Shouldn't we spend this money on media education programs or more sustainable community programs instead of making fat cats fatter at the expense of the public?

laura k said...

Deep in the backwoods of Appalachia? Hmmm. I wonder if we know you by a different name. Or names.

laura k said...

Shouldn't we spend this money on media education programs or more sustainable community programs instead of making fat cats fatter at the expense of the public?

Zinio does not come a the expense of community programs. Our library offers a wealth of those. But our customers want to read magazines, and most cannot afford them. Zinio allows us to offer 10, 20, 50 times the number of magazines we could offer with print subscriptions. So we maintain print subscriptions as needed, but continue to expand our digital collection. It's hugely cost effective.

The most important thing is to give customers the best service and the most options for the least expenditure. Zinio helps us do that. I don't agree with every spending decision the library makes, but our customers love Zinio, so why shouldn't we provide it?

I'm not sure why you think "fat cats" are getting rich off the library. I wonder if you've been to a library lately, or studied a library annual report. Few fat cats to be seen.

Anonymous said...

Not 'fat cats' with libraries (I agree, they don't exist), but with media companies.
Do you not think the libraries have to pay royalties for all of these magazines?
It'd be interesting to see some details / facts about this, as I know people enjoy the service. It'd just be important to discover what it costs taxpayers.

laura k said...

I understood what you meant by fat cats. The big media companies do not make much money from libraries. That's why they charge more for books and are stingy with e-book access.

Libraries don't pay royalties on magazines. No one does. Writers don't get royalties from magazine work; they are paid flat fees or per-word fees.

The library's dollar goes much further with the digital magazines than it does with print. My only problem with it is that access is limited to people with devices and the confidence and/or knowledge to use them. It undercuts our commitment to equal access. We're supposed to be bridging the digital divide, not increasing it. At least we teach people how to use it.

As for how much it costs, that is all public information, accessed very easily. In Mississauga, the library costs the taxpayer about $57 per year. It's an incredible bargain.

HillbillyInBC said...

I don't think so. I've been lurking (via the RSS feed) for years, ever since I decided to move to Vancouver back in 2006. But I never felt the urge to comment until very recently.