Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Some libraries are better than others

[File photo of Waterville Public Library]

Libraries are one of my favorite places to visit—sometimes. Other times, I find them irritating, loud and nearly impossible to work in.

When I was researching When Towns Had Teams, some of my best periods of research were performed at the temporary location of the Auburn Public Library. At the time (2004-2005), their historic building on Court and Spring Streets was undergoing a major renovation and upgrade. As a temporary solution to vacating their building, they relocated to the Auburn Mall. Now books and malls seem counterintuitive, but for whatever reason, this location seemed to work. Actually, it probably had more to do with Director Rosemary Waltos and her staff, like reference librarian, Sally Holt, that made my trips there memorable.

Today, I’m on my way to Skowhegan, for an evening meeting with business leaders and educators. Our hope is that dialogue can be established and possible avenues for partnership developed that might open initial discussions about education’s role in preparing students for careers and the requisite skills required for today’s workforce.

I am out of an afternoon meeting and since I’ll be working late into the evening, I decided to bring my laptop and try to get some work done during some downtime.

Since most libraries across Maine now offer Wi-Fi access and I’m passing through Waterville, I thought I’d spend time at their public library.

Pulling up to the library building on Elm Street, I immediately recognized that with the snow banks, I wouldn’t be parking in front of the building. I drove around back to what I thought was a parking lot for library patrons and saw signs indicating that the lot was restricted to employees of a neighboring business. Fortunately, the road behind the library offered curbside parking and I made my way up the poorly sanded back stairway and ramp.

Library circulation desks are usually a reasonable place to orient yourself during an initial visit. Most of Maine’s better libraries have signage that directs you to Wi-Fi hotspots, or other areas. I couldn’t find any, so I chose to stand in line waiting for an available staff person. The WPL staff didn’t seem in any kind of hurry to wait on patrons (or visitors). I was fourth in line and it became apparent that after five minutes, I was on my own. I could have chosen to wait, but my arm was tiring from my briefcase and my shoulder was aching from the laptop strap, so I did the next best thing; I followed a small, homemade sign pointing upstairs to the Teen Room and the Maine History Room. This was fortuitous for me, as neither room was occupied. I had an outlet and I was able to access the library’s network and I was now in business. If you think about it, if you are one of those odd people who cherish the quiet and privacy that once was synonymous with libraries, then an area specializing in Maine history would probably be a place of solitude (except at Lewiston Public Library, which will be a story for a later post).

Long story short, I have a perfunctory perch to work for the next hour and then, it’s off to Skowhegan for tonight’s meeting.


Anonymous said...

You should be happy that you could afford a laptop, a car and that you had a high-speed internet connection, instead of complaining that some underpaid library staffperson didn't cater to your every whim, you elitist!

Jim said...

Elitist? That's a good one. While I do have a car, it's 10 years old and has 181K on the odometer.

I do own a laptop, but it was a gift.

I wasn't complaining about my high-speed internet, just that this library's services seemed to be lacking.

Have a nice day!