Wish lists for public libraries

The past few years have been hard on our public libraries – and on everyone. In 2009, the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS) faced budget cuts of more than 20%, leading to furloughs and fewer hours. Thanks to the Keep Your Library Open and Keep the Doors Open campaigns, which has raised over $300,000 as of August 2010, we’ve been able to keep libraries open and staffed.

Despite technology and ebooks, we still need libraries – and real books, ones with weight and texture and yes, sometimes a musty smell. I even kind of miss the old sign-out cards, which let you see all the people who borrowed the book before you.

So here’s a great way that we could help out our public libraries and share the books that interest or inspire us, while honoring our family, friends, and the people important to us.

The Hawaii State Public Library System could create a website where librarians can list the books that they would like for their library but don’t have the money to buy. They might want new books, out-of-print books, or books that have been lost or damaged. Anyone could view their online “wish-list” and choose books that they think other people would enjoy.

Here’s how the public library’s online wish-list could work:

1. Visit the online book reservation system and browse the books;

2. Select the book(s) you want to donate;

3. Buy the book for the library using a credit card or check, or put a “hold” on it so you can buy it yourself and drop it off at any public library (after 2 weeks, the “hold” expires); and

4. Choose the inscription label that you would like to place in the donated book. There could be four choices: Donated by…, In Honor of…, In Memory of…, or Anonymous – just like donations to the Hawaiian Humane Society.

I don’t know how much it would cost to integrate the wish-list with the existing online reservation system by adding a “Donate book” button (there are currently two options: “Add to my list” and “Request Item”). But I think it’s worth thinking about.

People could have more book choices, and book donors could get a little recognition too – for the cost of a 10¢ label.

Sir Richard Steele wrote, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” I encourage everyone to read a little every day – and support our public libraries.

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