Library Wars

“Nelson started it.”

I was standing at the checkout desk at the Amherst County Public Library, inquiring about a book, when the young woman at the desk told me my card had expired. “No problem,” I said, and began to fish around in my wallet for $15.00. The woman looked embarrassed and took my card into a side office. She returned with another woman who looked even more embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “The fee has increased to $30.00.” Double? I said.

“Well, that’s what the Nelson library is charging our residents,” she said, “so we felt we had to do the same thing.”

I actually live in Nelson County and I have a library card for the public library in Lovingston, which is part of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system. But because we’re frequently in Amherst, I also have an Amherst library card. I can get my book group books there a little faster (because the rest of my book group gets the book of the month from the Nelson library). We only have dial-up Internet access at our house, so we also use the high-speed access at the Amherst library. The cost of our library card in Nelson is $0, because we’re residents. Up until recently, the cost of the library card in Amherst was $15.00 (per year), because we’re non-residents. My husband and I save gas by using this library, the books are more readily available, and the Internet is faster. We figured that was worth the $15.00 price of admission. But $30.00?

When I asked someone at the library in Lovingston about this, she said, “Well Albemarle started it.”

What is this, second grade? I thought. Turns out that people from Fluvanna and even Buckingham were using the libraries in Albemarle County. (And who knows what that could lead to—more reading maybe? A better educated public?) Something had to be done.

Remember, the cost of a card is $0 if you’re a resident. The card is good pretty much forever, as far as I can tell. The cost of a non-resident card is now $30.00 EVERY SINGLE YEAR. That’s a lot.

I have a Library of Virginia card. No charge. Because I was doing some research in my hometown, the librarian at the Hopewell public library issued me a card. When I asked the fee, she stared at me as though I were a creature from another planet. “Ma’am,” she said as if I’d attempted to take away her constitutional rights, “we do not charge people to use the library.” Some libraries, it seems, want as many people as possible to use their resources. Encourage it, even.

Virginians, here’s the thing: your state tax dollars went to all of these libraries to buy – wait for it – the books. And some public libraries are perfectly willing to charge you a yearly fee to check them out for yourselves, your shut-in relatives and your children.

As it happens, a number of people from Fluvanna are willing to pay the fee so that they can use the library closest to their house or to their place of work. (Never mind that they pump money into the local economy in other ways—they shop in Albemarle, eat in Albemarle,buy gas in Albemarle…) But I wonder how many people, once turned away, have trouble making it to a less convenient library. Now that I’ve looked into it, I, for one, will not be paying $30.00 every year to check out books that I helped pay for. Further proof that a little education, after all, is a dangerous thing.



9 thoughts on “Library Wars

  1. Ok, I’ll have to refrain from the Hokie joke about the UVa library and coloring books. But since you mentioned the civil war, what was the name for people who come down from “up north” to use libraries? Was it carpetbooker? 🙂


  2. Well reasoned points. You are always welcome in Hopewell, Dinwiddie & Prince George Counties. We are fortunate to have had Friends like Pat Lundquist who always stood for greater access to our resources.


  3. The overdue fines increased to .25 from .10/per day…why an architectural plan for a new library in Nelson hasn’t been drafted yet, I’ll never know. I’ve paid for the cornerstone and then some.


  4. The Appomattox Regional Library in Hopewell, Prince George and Dinwiddie truly rocks! And just take a look at the newly restored Beacon Theatre, its classiest appendage.


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