For years, my day job has been with Multnomah County Library in Portland. I like libraries enough that I also have a library card with the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system [FVRL] across the Columbia River. So I've access to libraries in southwest Washington too.
Perhaps a busman's holiday, today I went to the far reaches of the FVRL system to see one of the few self-service public libraries in the world, deep in Bigfoot Country.
We drove from Portland for about an hour, winding two-lane blacktop, but mapquest.com got us there.
Entering Yacolt, Washington, our eye was caught by the sight of a lofty cellphone tower disguised to look like a Douglas Fir. Its "trunk," rising 100 feet overhead had regularly spaced "branches"--an impossibly large fake Christmas tree.
The drive was worth it for the sight of that alone!
At the three-car parking lot of the Yacolt Express Library, I parked by an FVRL minivan. Alas, not the full self-service public library experience.
I walked up to the front door, of what used to be Yacolt's City Hall cum jail from 1908, and put my FVRL library card barcode under the scanner. Voila! The front door unlocked. We were inside and I saw two women checking in and reshelving books. As a library type, I respect their work and would sort things out myself.
The library proper, about the size of my living room with 2,000 items to borrow. Small collections of DVDs and CDs, and shelves of books, a variety of children's and adult. Even if my FVRL card let me self-check something out, I wouldn't. Leave it for someone in Yacolt to discover the Karl Ove Knausgaard book of essays.
There was a shelf with reserve books for patron pickup [holdings elsewhere in the FVRL system may requested for Yacolt]. Two Internet computers and a self-checkout machine completed the picture.
I looked and found RFID chips, so no books will be walking out.
If the library is open 56 hours a week, and staffed four, what about late book returns and fines? Well, FVRL has a no-fines policy. But if your checkout is more than 30 days late, you've bought the book.
We left the library without a book, but in an adjacent hallway, Bigfoot Books sells donated books, and is housed in one of three jail cells, bar doors and iron walls. We left fifty cents for a Ngaio Marsh paperback in the honor box.
Combining minimum staff time with more “book hours” for the community, Yacolt's self-service library is a welcome improvement over earlier bookmobile visits. Read more about the Yacolt library here at the FVRL website.
Image credits: author photograph
Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
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