I ran this by Linda Hazzan, who thought I must be joking, but I’m not: TPL needs a Library Wonks blog where MLSs and the like can discuss the inner workings of the system. It’s not as though there isn’t an audience for topics of that sort. (My original question concerned how TPL decides which branches get which items. It’s apparently done by humans and produces self-fulfilling prophecies and stereotypes for smaller branches. Let’s explore that in detail!)
Then, inevitably, the library would need an associated Twit:
Tell me this isn’t a good idea.
If the only thing Cathy Raine can muster a complaint about is filling out the least-used form in the entire system, no wonder TPL management likes her enough to give her an official guest post.
Because they didn’t come from me.
Benign Catherine Raine’s 99-Branch Club has been documented in the TPL’s April online newsletter, which of course is a PDF, hence is not really “online.” I was never expecting coverage in TPL’s own publications (it never occurred to me), but now I know I’m not going to get it. I have learned the hard way that the library does not actually want any coverage it doesn’t write itself.
In a Same Planet, Different Worlds scenario, I only just discovered Catherine Raine, an American émigrée to Canada who has assigned herself the task of visiting all 99 Toronto Public Library branches. She’s up to 74 or 75 already over a two-year period.
Catherine describes her project thus:
My admiration for the TPL system started seven years ago when my husband Stewart and I immigrated to Canada. During my very first week in Toronto, I applied for a library card at Deer Park. By 2006, I had visited quite a few different branches before I decided it would be interesting to visit all of them. When I mentioned this idea to Stewart, he encouraged me to blog about it. Hesitant at first, I became more and more enthusiastic about describing the various branches. My first two posts in the fall of 2007 provided quite brief notes, but by January 2008 I was starting to write much fuller descriptions.
Now I’m in the process of fleshing out the earlier entries and making plans to visit the remaining 26 branches still unknown to me.
Catherine is unwittingly following in the footsteps of transit fans, some of whom take it upon themselves to visit all 69 subway stations on the same day. The phrases “every-station club” and “69-station club” (blog) have come to be used for these people.
Hence Catherine Raine is the founder of the 99-Branch Club. Somebody’s gotta do it.
It’s not enough for a library system to have its own Web site anymore. You also have to show you’re totally with the program by getting on the various social-networking sites.
As far as that goes, TPL is really just “on the Facebook.” The Web team has its own blog, and there’s a Twitter feed for those of you keen on the fastest and most convenient medium of cyberbullying known to humankind. (The account name, @torontolibrary, shows second-mover disadvantage – @TPL was already taken.) But that’s kind of it.
Keeping up with the Joneses can become a war of attrition. Maybe you remember Friendster and Orkut, the latter of which is still big with the Brazilians. Maybe you’d have to hire your own personal social coördinator to keep adding and updating profiles and re-refriending all your refriended friends.
Too much trouble if you’re just a person sitting at a computer? Of course. But is it too much trouble for an organization? A publicly-funded organization? A public library? What happens if you don’t go to that trouble?
What happens is an unintended class division, according to researcher Danah Boyd. (It’s pronounced “Dayna” Boyd. It’s Dana with an h.) Continue reading