Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Ethics Grinch

According to this article on NOLA.com, library patrons have been advised to not give gifts to librarians, nor should the public servants that staff the library accept gifts. This is based on a decision by the state board of ethics.

The librarians appear to be taking the decision with good grace, though there are some questions about what kinds of benefits you could get for bribing a librarian (first in line for the new Oprah book? preferred seating for an author reading?), but the patrons seem to be more upset. As a comfort to the patrons and in a spirit of holiday giving here are my suggestions if you are grateful for what your local library does for you:
  • Tell people why you love your library. Now is the time. Libraries are losing money from their budgets, laying off staff and libraries are closing. Only you can stop it, especially if it hasn't happened in your community-- yet.
    If you really want to say thanks to your library, write a letter and send it to your library to thank them for their help and write your local government official to tell them how much you love your library and that you think it is important to keep the library fully-funded. Write your state/provincial and municipal government and cc the library on your letter. (You can also tell Obama directly at Change.gov.) Cost: 3 stamps and an hour of your time.
  • Give money. Not a lot and not all at once, but you can probably donate your spare change every time you leave the library, if they have a system for accepting donations. You can, of course, give a donation that is big enough to claim on your income tax, and we say, thanks.
  • Pay your fines before the end of the year. Go into the new year with your accounts reconciled.
  • Donate gently used materials. Take a look at the books you bought throughout this year. Are you going to re-read them? Do you think it's likely that you will read them at all? Pass them on to the library. Don't give your old college textbooks from the 60s: give them materials that patrons can use into the new year.
  • If you want to give plants or furniture, look at your library and see where the seating area is, where could furniture or plants be of use? Call your library and ask. They may have some suggestions for you.
  • Next year, take part in library events and help get the word out amongst your friends. Bringing patrons to the library can help them with securing funds, getting grant money to support a program, and can also bring needed media attention to library events. If people see the library in the news, they think about the library and how useful it is to have a clean and safe place to visit.
Even the Grinch was struck by a spirit of giving and peace at the end of the book: you too can have that feeling.

Happy Holidays everyone.

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