THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS POSSIBLE NSFW VISUAL CONTENT
Right up front I want to get one thing straight. I am a Mama Lion when it comes to libraries. They are my admitted blind spot, my weakness, my true love. I strongly encourage you, dear reader, to not take anything I say here as part of that stupid “libraries are obsolete” nonsense that’s going around. While I may not believe that libraries are obsolete, I do believe they are in danger of underestimating their patronage and thereby, ultimately, transforming their patronage in ways that are not good for the society that funds the libraries.
I am a libertarian, but I’ll try not to use that word too much in this piece because I am forever mistaking it for “librarian”–and vice-versa–when skimming Facebook. As a libertarian I firmly believe that libraries are like standing armies; a crucial part of the societal agreement necessary for the protection and growth of the community. Rachel Walden, noted author of the Women’s Health News blog (and a dear friend I deeply respect), wrote an outstanding piece over the weekend about book deserts, their effect on the community, and the library as oasis.
the Nashville Public Library *does* make some services and materials available remotely. They provide OverDrive, an ebook borrowing system that is not perfect, but is certainly better than having *no* reading materials available.
It’s that Overdrive System that I’m needing to address out of a frothing frustration.
Overdrive is not run by the Nashville Public Library. They are an outside service that the NPL–or any local library system–can subscribe to in order to provide digital media (e-books, audiobooks, MP3 music, video) to the library’s subscribers. It’s not unlike going to a restaurant for dinner and finding out that the appetizers are catered by another eatery. The reason for this system–best I can tell–is that the publishers need a solution that makes them comfortable about the management of their digital rights. Instead of interacting directly with each library system to monitor DRM*, the publishers can interact with Overdrive. It’s a middleman, imposing clumsy restrictions that muck up a previously-streamlined process.
I’ve come to accept those restrictions as the price of having access to electronic materials. What I cannot accept, however, is the glaringly base and sloppy presentation of content.
Yes, there are other things, of course. But chances are if you are not looking for a specific volume by title or author name, you’ll be browsing through several pages of Dude Nipples and soft-core clinches before finding anything that isn’t pulp fiction. Many of these titles are already offered free or deeply discounted to owners of e-readers. I strongly suspect that Overdrive has sold itself to libraries as offering an ebook collection of X number of volumes, without specifying that most of their acquisitions are from the e-book version of the discount bin. It is, quite literally, cheap smut.
As far as reading goes, I have no problem with anyone reading whatever they want to read. I’m a firm believer in that librarians’ chant “a book for every reader, a reader for every book.” Diddling The Duke is not my idea of a good read, but I don’t care one iota if you partake. I’m not your wife, mother or priest. However, I get the strong feeling from my hours of browsing the Overdrive collection that the curators of Overdrive are not too eager to spend top dollar for much content beyond the bottom line.
To that end I beg the Nashville Public Library–and all other public libraries who subscribe to Overdrive–to put due pressure on Overdrive to hire better content managers. We need true librarians overseeing the e-books available to the Public Library patrons of the United States. If we’ve all got to be stuck with this kluge of a system, at least let’s get the content up to par with the type of minds we want to develop in ourselves.
*Digital Rights Management