18 February 2015

My failed quest for a library membership

Usually this space is where I write about my triumphs. The plastic hurdles successfully jumped over and shared here to make life a little easier for those, like me, that want to avoid waste, especially the non-recyclable plastic type. Unfortunately my latest attempt to thwart plastic has not been a success at all and I am a little bummed about it.



When I moved to the suburbs I decided to get a library membership for my local library. I have wandered in there when I had time to kill to read magazines or look at books. I kept putting it off because one of the items I needed for a membership was something with my address on it. 

When my NSW state licence was due for renewal I decided it was time to become a Victorian and apply for a state licence. With a new non embarrassing photo snapped my new licence was supplied to me with my name and address on it. I could now get a library membership.

About the same time I had to get a new bank card. All of a sudden I had two new plastic cards and two old plastic cards…and getting a library membership would mean another plastic card. (I have a blog post coming up about plastic cards soon. Still researching some helpful info for it).

Surely I could get a library membership without plastic. I could simply ask for a membership but without a card, instead keep my membership number written down or if they used barcodes I could write out the barcode number. I worked in retail so I knew most systems where the barcode did not work for some reason the barcode number could be keyed in. It was a simple an easy solution.

Turns out I could not action any of these ideas. The library simply said no after I presented my solutions. There was no way around it. If I wanted to borrow books then I had to succumb to a plastic card.

I love libraries. My childhood country town has a small library. To me it was my favourite place to go after school. Over the last five year have spent many hours raising money to help build Libraries with Room to Read.

Libraries are a one of the best sustainable options for enjoying books and magazines that are only read once. I frequently pop in to read magazines. Even if a magazine or book is printed on recycled paper, libraries which are essentially part of the sharing economy are a better choice for the environment. A book or magazine that is printed on recycled paper then left on a shelf or recycled again requiring energy and a bigger carbon footprint than that same item potentially shared with 50-100 people is obviously more sustainable choice and kinder on the environment.

Currently when I want a book I visit charity stores or borrow from friends. Both fantastic avenues to browse and enjoy books. Like right now I want to read Amy Poehler book Yes, Please but have not found it in any second hand books stores or on my friends shelves. I have never read a book on my smart phone, maybe that is my solution.

I did ponder if one bit of plastic was that big of a deal if granted me access to a lifetime of free books. One half of is stomping her foot and saying no. It is the principal. My request was denied. A request that was made not for me, but for the environment and generations after me. A plastic card is not necessary.

I want to know what you would do. Would you get the card? Or should I get over what is a first world problem and download books to my smart phone?

I think I just answered my own question.
  1. We have a library membership and I love it. It gives me access to books, computers, movies, classes, and clubs. I would get the card, because I think a library represents more than just the building. It's one of the only establishments that encourages sharing resources instead of buying. That alone makes me want to support it.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are so right - getting a card would mean encouraging the sharing economy.

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  2. I would agree with Michele. I would look at the big picture and see the trade off of supporting the library and all the ways it promotes the sharing economy, reducing waste and consumption as worth it when compared to the small piece of plastic required to be a member. Once a member, I would become involved in advocacy to try and come up with a solution for people in your situation. Working within the system.

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    1. Yes! This is so true. Turning my back on the library on it will not solve my issue. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  3. Another nod of agreement from me too! Libraries are so great for the community, and unfortunately if they find there is low interest/participation they might reduce hours or even close! I love how Kathryn mentions to become involved and finding a solution to it. That is wonderful advice.

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    1. Kathryn did make a great point as have you. Looks like I will be getting a membership. Thanks Marg :)

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  4. I just finished reading my first book on my phone and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Our city's libraries offer digital books that can be checked out along side bounded books, and is something I am looking forward to.
    As someone who has only read books from the library for the past 3 years, I think the plastic library card is worth it. You aren't just saving trees by not purchasing new books, but aren't contributing to their printing and shipping as well. I agree that it would be wonderful to find a solution! But in the meantime, enjoy reading a book or two while supporting your library.

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    1. You are the fourth person to vote yes for the library membership. I have now been convinced that the benefits are worth it and I have now found that most cards can be recycled which is good to know.

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  5. Another vote for getting the card. If you use the library, it's worth supporting it (more members means the library stays open!). Reading on a smartphone is not the same as snuggling with a book and saves money as well. I do both kindle (for paper saving/convienence reasons) and borrowed book reading but have always preferred the physical book. PLUS library cards generally don't expire like other cards do.

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    1. I tried reading a book on my smartphone last night and it was a little hard on my eyes. Plus I don't like keeping a phone in my bedroom at night (i find it harder to fall asleep if i have been on my phone). I will be taking myself to the library tonight and signing up for a membership. Thanks for your help Chantae.

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  6. Janine2/23/2015

    I would be lost without a library membership and think the benefits outweigh that one-off need for a plastic card. Libraries offer much more than books, magazines and DVDs. About 18 months ago I finally managed to persuade my husband to stop buying the newspaper as our library (YPRL) has access to Library Press Display so we can access newspapers online, for free at home. Also another great resource that my library offers is a Sustainable Home Audit Kit to borrow. The kit has equipment and info on how to measure your energy and water usage within the home. I found out about this through one of the free events at the library (another of my favourite things that libraries offer).
    I'd love to see an app for our smartphones that has your library card barcode on it. I have been caught out before when one of my kids borrows my card and forgets to put it back, this could eliminate the need for a card altogether.

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    1. A library membership does open up doors to a range of ways that ultimately offsets mindless consumption. I am looking forward to the free events too. You would think that an app like that would already exist? Or maybe it would only work city to city?

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