C'mere a minute

A neverending topic of conversation at your average library is how to increase circulation statistics. Apparently it’s not enough to provide access to a wide variety of materials across a range of formats and subjects, and then open your doors and welcome the hordes. Ideally, some sort of advertising campaign would alert your public to the library’s goods and services, perhaps with billboards, radio spots, bus ads, and whatnot. But what if a media budget is not handily available and your circulation figures are falling (no crude jokes about librarians’ physiques, please)?
William here, no stranger to long and complicated answers to questions of the human condition, has the answer for you.
Naval press gang

That's what you get for getting drunk within 50 miles of the sea

 The naval pressgang. Imagine yourself innocently walking down a street in any seaside town in England during the Napoleonic Wars, and a sinister-looking fellow approaches you, not with a library book, but with a bayonet. Before you can say Bob’s your uncle, you’re eating weevilly biscuits and your teeth are falling out into the Caribbean.

It worked for the Royal Navy, and it can work for the public library, too. If they won’t come in on their own two feet, drag them in at pencil point. Isn’t that pretty much the model for school tours? And, just as regulating officers used to earn a little side money by letting men go free in return for a guinea or so, we can increase our budgets by letting the truly desperate pay for their freedom not to read.

Consider this as you celebrate Banned Books Week, September 24 – October 1, 2011 (1). Everyone talks about the freedom to read (it’s probably enshrined in your library’s collection development policy), but no one’s talking about the freedom not to be attacked in the street and forced to sign up for a library card.

Did I mention that September is also Library Card Promotion Month? Please, please, keep the librarians behind their desks where they belong, not roaming the streets looking for their next victim. At least wear your library card on a chain around your neck.

1. One story of the nickname for the Royal Navy, “the Andrew,” is that one superstar pressman, Andrew Miller, nabbed so many men and pressed them into service that it might as well have been his navy. I thought perhaps the library could be “the William” because it was all his idea, but he modestly suggested that we name it after everyone’s favorite musical librarian.

2. Visit the Banned Books Week website for more information.