Service Expectations

I’ve moved to a town with no bagels! What a shock. The rhythm of my weekend life is disrupted – start coffee maker, make quick pickup trip to bagel shop, enjoy morning paper with fresh coffee and bagel. My expectation for available retail facilities is shattered. There are no bagels in this town – and the little frozen things in the supermarket just won’t do.

I’ve moved several times; this is the 9th city I’ve called home in my adult life. In each new home I anticipate that certain services will be provided by governmental and retail business. Most times I’m satisfied: the post office supplies me with a mail delivery box, the newspaper shows up daily once initiated, the garbage truck takes away the trash when I set it by the curb, and the house of worship delivers a predictable experience. A balanced complement of retail provides food, clothing, shoes, and take-out Chinese. So, when I don’t find a reasonable facsimile to something I’m used to having, my equilibrium is completely out of whack!

What expectations do people have of libraries? Time-tested amenities include books to check out, pre-school story time, and tax forms. Other service expectations may or may not be satisfied, depending on local priorities. You may or may not find movie DVDs, audio books for your MP3 player, public computers, or a wireless signal to hook into with your laptop computer. Even more frustrating may be the inconsistencies in privileges to use the library’s resources. For instance, in some libraries you can sit at a table and read a book, but you need a library card (verified with a permanent address) to use a computer.

What can the public expect when they see a “public library” sign? Should there be core services available to all? Should there be consistent requirements for use? Should those core services be tied to receipt of public dollars? Should it be the responsibility of entities receiving taxing authority to provide funding for core services? What are the core services? And who defines all this?

And in the meantime, maybe I’ll have to open my own bagel shop.