07 April 2015

Technology in the Library

     A few weeks back I visited the Washington Memorial Branch of the Macon County, Georgia, Library for the first time.  They have a large genealogy room there and I'd heard that it held a lot of Revolutionary War resources.

     As I was browsing books I did what I often do now: take photos of pertinent information using my cellphone.  As I sat in the isle (I didn't see the point in hauling a shelf and a half of books about Edgfield Co., SC to a table), a voice behind me asked, "You're not taking photos of the books, are you?"  I found out that the library does not allow patrons to photograph book pages.  Instead, you must make a photocopy (20¢).  I complied, but I was flabbergasted.

     The only reason I can see for this policy is to make money.  And yes, I understand that these libraries are all likely underfunded and need all the money they can make to provide services.  And the photocopy machine costs money to operate.  But to force patrons to use the copy machine if they want a copy of the book pages?  I'm sorry, but it feels greedy to me.  I hate to say that, because it's judgmental.  I don't honestly know the library's reasoning for the policy but, regardless of what the reasoning might be, I don't like it.

     Aside from the money aspect, I have to wonder what their thoughts are considering the technological aspects of their policy.  Every day more an more people, regardless of age, use smartphones.  Genealogists are buying portable scanners and tablets to make research easier when away from home.  Heck, there are cameras in eyeglasses!  The use of digital technology in libraries, archives and courthouses is on the rise. I'm not sure how long this library thinks to enforce this policy, but I just can't see it lasting long.  Technology is growing and changing so fast that there's no telling what it will look like in five years.  I'm betting this policy won't last that long though.


A H Zeller said...

Our local Historical Society enforces a similar rule in their research area. It has some Clerks' books which are nearly impossible to fit into a copier. I have never protested the rule, because, as a volunteer, I may copy nearly anything I wish. My objection is strongest, however, in cases where forcing a bound volume into a copier could cause damage. Alan H Zeller

Charlene Filipiak said...

My local genealogical library encourages members to save things electronically. We encourage members to save their computer finds to their flash drives, and if they don't have one, they can purchase one from us quite inexpensively. Plus I agree with Alan Zeller, I hate seeing large books being forced onto a copier, plus I have found when I take a picture I end up with a better copy. Perhaps this library should have a flat fee of $5.00 to take unlimited pictures.

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