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Good Libraries: USA vs. UK

I revere British culture; I admit it. If I could get a direct feed to the BBC TV channels, I’d be in heaven. (Sorry, BBC America is not a substitute for the real thing.) But it looks like we might have the UK beat in at one least aspect of cultural life: how US libraries are networked.

Yesterday, a BBC News magazine feature, BBC NEWS | Magazine | Love it or lose it, warns, “Across the UK more than 100 libraries now face being shut as councils search for savings to ease budget deficits.” The article went on to cite “Tim Coates, who runs the influential Good Library Blog” as saying the issue is efficiency, not money, noting that London has 330 libraries over 33 boroughs – but no effective co-operation.

Hey, that’s our Berkshire Good Library Blog the BBC is calling “influential.” And our British colleague Tim Coates being quoted. But back to just one example of how US libraries are ahead of the curve in terms of library coordination. This morning I logged on to the website of my local (rural) library — Roeliff Jansen Community Library and in about two minutes I was able to order a new book by political pundit Joe Klein for my daughter and check which of two titles would be most available for the dozen people in our library book group. I could do that because our library is part of the Mid-Hudson Library System, which serves seventy-five towns in five rural upstate New York counties. So I can instantly request any book available in the system and have it come to my local library (usually within a few days, sometime sooner).

Wisely, every book comes with a bookmark that tells the patron how many millions of dollars this efficient process saves the libraries in the system. If rural US towns can network so effectively, surely London can too!

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