Flu and the digital divide

I’m particularly sensitive to information and connections that can only be had through the Internet. In the public library we see people every day who come in with something written on a scrap of paper – an Internet or E-mail address they heard on TV for something they want to know. Unfortunately, the address they’ve written is often wrong, and library staff has to play detective to help them find their needed information. Amazingly, the staff is pretty often successful.

Tonight’s news reported that now the Digital Divide affects peoples’ ability to get a flu shot. Park Nicollet health care system received a shipment of H1N1 flu vaccine and set up an appointment line. There were so many phone calls that they had to shut down phone appointments, and now the only way to get an appointment is by sending an E-mail. Walk-ins will not be accepted.

Where will people turn? I hope to their public library. But will we able to handle it? I don’t know. Limited hours and a finite number of PCs will limit their access. Many don’t know how to use a computer, or have an E-mail account from which to send an E-mail. Staff are stretched thin. Will they have time to help people set up E-mail accounts and send the E-mail to get an appointment for a flu shot? I don’t know. The article doesn’t say, but I assume that Park Nicollet will send an appointment by a return E-mail. That means that the person who wants a flu shot will need to check that possibly new E-mail account again (and again?)

Hard looks at policies in hard times

There IS such a think as bad publicity, and a library in Wisconsin demonstrates it. The library evidently turns cases of patrons with long-overdue items over to the local police department for collection. In this case, after the library sent 5 notices, the police department sent 2 notices, including a citation. When the woman received the citation, she returned the books, but didn’t appear in court as ordered. So, according to the newspaper, the police department showed up at her house 3 months later and handcuffed her in front of her children watching out the window.

While the title of the news article — “Overdue items lead to woman’s arrest” — casts the spotlight on the library, the arrest warrant was actually because the woman didn’t appear in court, as ordered. The librarian acknowledges that “It’s embarrassing that someone would go to jail, especially being arrested outside their home, for not returning a book. But, it has happened before, and there is another woman in the same situation.” The news article also quotes the woman as stating the books were the last things on her mind, as both she and her husband had lost their jobs and their van was broke down.

I urge this library, as well as all of us, to review our policies on delinquent accounts. There’s got to be a better way to handle this, when the economic situation of many of the people we exist to serve is crumbling in upon them. There are just so many issues here, and so many points that this whole situation could have been averted. And I wish that the news wouldn’t look for the sensational. It all just makes me sad.

Busman’s holiday

Las Vegas Library

I recently returned from vacation. On my way home, I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this sign at the Las Vegas Airport. Good on the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District for their marketing at the airport. I saw two of these signs at the airport.

This might be the first time I’ve gone on vacation when I didn’t step foot in a library. Well alright, I came close. We were on the Deuce Bus, headed for downtown when I spied the universal library sign pointing somewhere near the Stratosphere. Since we’d bought an all-day pass, I immediately headed for the door at the closest stop. My beloved life partner, accustomed as he is to my spur of the moment actions, also jumped up from his seat, and we headed down the street to where the sign was pointing.

It was hot, hot, hot (95 degrees) as we trudged through several turns, following the signs. Unfortunately, the library was closed. The neighborhood was one where I was really glad that it was mid-day and there were lots of people on the street. The website says about the branch we almost visited: The Meadows Village Library is an outreach branch that supports the curriculum of the many programs of the Chester A. Stupak Community Center and specializes in Spanish and Latino resources.