As part of its public-service news operation, East Lansing Info (ELi) runs a service called Ask ELi to Investigate. We take readers’ questions, assign them to our reporters, and try to bring clear answers.
In a previous Ask ELi column, Jessy Gregg looked at the question of whether the City of East Lansing and City taxpayers would save money if, instead of operating an independent library, East Lansing joined the Capital Area District Library (CADL) system.
Today, we’re following up by answering the question of why some East Lansing residents pay to belong to CADL. (East Lansing residents can join CADL by paying $50 a year for individual membership or $75 for one adult plus children. Read more at the CADL website.)
First, a couple of notes:
The following is not a scientific survey; we asked around among our readers to get answers to this question that are hopefully somewhat representative and informative.
We are not using respondents’ names because library patronage turns out to be a hot political issue in this area, and, as these are “ordinary citizens” and not public officials, we aren’t interested in putting them in an awkward position for helping to inform our readers.
Location, location, location:
For some East Lansing residents, working or going to school near CADL branches means using CADL is just easier for them.
One respondent said about her spouse, “We work in downtown Lansing and he prefers the ease of walking to the library during the day versus trying to make it to the East Lansing library. He also likes that they have a larger collection of material overall….He is a prodigious library user and is at the downtown branch 3-5 days a week.”
One person said that where her children receive childcare makes it easier for her family to use CADL rather than the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL).
Wrote another, “As a preschool teacher in the Lansing School District, but a resident of East Lansing, I do purchase a CADL card. I often wonder why [East Lansing] does not participate with CADL.”
Access to resources:
If the ELPL doesn’t have a book a patron wants, the patron can ask ELPL to obtain that book (and various other types of resources) through an inter-library loan. But that can take time.
One respondent to our query said, “Overall, I pay to use CADL because I have quick access to so many more titles than ELPL provides… if I need a title that ELPL doesn’t own (which is often the case), I can usually drive to a CADL location and get it immediately.” She adds that the fact that CADL has so many more libraries means “the number of titles available in CADL is just SO much larger than ELPL.”
This respondent also says she values the fact that “CADL keeps older titles, DVDs, books on CD, etc.” She points to “an immense weeding program” at ELPL resulting in the loss of materials she wishes ELPL still had. She also says CADL purchases new titles she is interested in, which she says isn’t the case with ELPL, that CADL purchases more new material, and that it purchases new material in more formats (downloadable files, eBooks, etc.).
Another respondent said essentially the same: “CADL gets new books and DVDs faster than ELPL and they order multiple copies so patrons get them faster. CADL also orders popular DVD titles in both regular DVD and Blu-ray so it doubles the number they're ordering…. I find many eBook titles I want from Overdrive are not available from ELPL while CADL has them.”
She added, “New books from ELPL check-out for four weeks, as opposed to CADL's seven days, so it often takes more than six months to actually get a new title from ELPL, so it isn't so new by the time you get it. New DVDs check-out from ELPL for one week while CADL limits new DVDs to three days, resulting in a faster turnover.”
For this respondent as others, what gets ordered is an issue: “I have found that there are many books and DVDs that ELPL doesn't bother to order while CADL has them, particularly books of local interest and independent movies. It seems that most of collection development for ELPL is done by standing order and not selected by librarians, so they miss many titles of local interest or from authors who are currently appearing on TV talk shows.”
Overdue fines, renewals, holds, and other factors:
Respondents who live in East Lansing and belong to CADL also said they value that CADL charges lower overdue fines than ELPL, that it allows renewals for three DVDs instead of two, and that some branches will keep books on hold behind the desk while patrons come in to get them.
One respondent, a retired librarian, says, “I hate that ELPL places books on hold on open shelves. I feel that this practice violates patron privacy, which is guaranteed by the Michigan Library Privacy Act.” She notes that some CADL branches do this, too, although she says the Foster branch respects privacy for hold books.
Another respondent tells ELi, “My family chooses to use a CADL library, even though we live only a couple of blocks from ELPL. We pay the annual fee because we use the [CADL] library weekly and like the user-friendly atmosphere and helpful staff.”
Should East Lansing move to join CADL?
Some East Lansing residents are of the opinion East Lansing should move to join CADL and give up its library independence.
Writes one, “I would think that the city would come out ahead if the library was no longer part of the city, mostly by no longer having library staff as city employees, many with benefits.” She also suggests that, as the Library is paying about $235,000 to the City for Human Resource and Information Technology services, those funds could essentially be “saved” to taxpayers by having CADL’s resources deployed for these needs. She says, “I am very interested in seeing ELPL become part of CADL. I believe that East Lansing taxpayers would be getting so much more in library services for a lower tax bill.”
Another respondent had this take: “I was a CADL member for years after moving to East Lansing. After moving to East Lansing, I often asked why ELPL was not part of CADL. In time, I came to learn it was a matter of politics and local control, which I appreciate, and I love the work that ELPL is doing, but I also loved the flexibility and collection of CADL, especially before ELPL got their online business in order. These days it’s definitely less black and white, but part of me still wishes that ELPL was part of CADL.”
One respondent said, “I missed the East Lansing Library after moving to Meridian,” which is part of CADL. This person finds the East Lansing Library “warmer, cozier, sunnier, and [it] has a vastly larger selection of material. Both staffs are exceptional.”
Said another, “We do both,” adding, “[we] love and support libraries across the board.”
Finally, one respondent suggested we ask non-East Lansing residents who purchase ELPL cards why they choose to do that. Are you in that category? Or do you have another question (perhaps unrelated) that you’d like to Ask Eli to Investigate? Contact us.