What does the economic downturn mean to the Radford Public Library? We get that question nearly every day, and the answer is relatively simple: People use the library more when times are tough. They come to use the computers, because either they don’t have one at home, don’t have a working printer, can no longer afford internet connections, or have old computers that can’t do what is necessary. They come to hunt for jobs, apply for jobs at places that only accept online applications, they come to take online classes to make themselves more employable.
Families come because they can get a pile of free entertainment, books, DVDs, audiobooks, and everything is free if you simply return it on time. And, we make renewing books easy: over the telephone, online, or in person, you can keep your books out for a total of six weeks, one two week check out plus two renewals. If you bring books back on time, you will never owe the library a dime. Checking out books is considered part of the library’s “core services” for which we will never charge money.
Other library services can be called “premium” or “extra” services, and here the fees are beginning to appear all over Virginia. For a number of years, we have charge people who borrow books from other libraries through Interlibrary Loan the cost of return postage. This is the sort of fee that could rise as times get tougher and library budgets shrink while usage rises. The recent addition of a fee for using the meeting room has raised a howl of protests, but this, too, is beyond our “core services” and brings us in line with charges already in place at the Recreation Department. Overdue fines are as old as public libraries, but these may rise, too, as squeezed libraries try to find ways to raise money and help keep the doors open.
Here’s another new austerity measure: instead of offering a Fine Free Month to encourage borrowers with overdue material to bring it back to the library (and save us the cost of replacing!), this year there will simply be Fine Free Week, during National Library Week, April 11-18. If you want to save a little at home, be sure to bring any overdue item back during this week.