Thursday, December 11, 2008

Scrooged by library rules

We've all had experiences where a simple transaction is blocked because of a rule. Thanks to some idiot that abused a privledge, the rule was established and we now have to jump through hoops. I understand why rules are set and generally try to conform rather than ask for an exception. Once in a blue moon, exceptions can be justified and should be made. Karen "DeafMom" Putz had just such a circumstance in her local Illinois public library.
Her daughter, also deaf, was to attend a production of "The Christmas Carol" with her class. A series of events left her without an interpreter and a suitable option was to obtain the captioned video. The Putz ladies headed for the nearest library, though not the one that receives the family's tax dollars. A reciprocal agreement allows for the loan of non-fiction videos. Fictional videos require a $100 annual fee plus $1 per loan.

Karen explained the entire situation and the librarian confirmed the captioned video was not available at their hometown library. The only option given to Karen was to pay the annual fee.

As a child I had a physical disability and used crutches for several years. I did not want preferential treatment, have never sought pity nor coddled anyone because of their differences or challenges. As an adult, I have worked with people facing physical challenges and my opinion has not changed.

I do believe in reasonable accomodation, but this instance was even beyond accomodating someone with a disability. The child had a school project. The mom had reciprocal rights to check out most materials from that library. Her contact information is on record. Her home library, as a reciprocal lender, confirmed they did not have the video. An exception in this case would not have caused a proverbial flood of patrons to request exceptions since this was a circumstance where the material was not otherwise available.

She wasn't asking to take out reference material - just a classic fiction DVD. Surely it would be better to extend goodwill and customer service than to have the Naperville, IL Library publicly humiliated.


  1. she couldn't pay $3 to check it out at Blockbuster?

  2. I find it interesting that people just assume one has the time and means to explore other alternatives after having exactly what you need at the place one is at denied to you.

    Maybe it wasn't available at Blockbusters. Maybe Blockbusters copy wasn't captioned. Maybe it's a busy holiday season and someone just wants one small problem to be resolved rather than driving all over town trying to resolve it.

    A little goodwill would have gone a long way here.

  3. I should have mentioned to follow the link to DeafMom's full story which explains why she couldn't just go rent it elsewhere and the Librarian here brings us to the bottom line.
    It is important though to take this opportunity to explain further because many would see the same solution Janet does. There is a difference between closed captioning and subtitles. Subtitles merely puts spoken words at the bottom of the screen. Closed-captioning is positioned to identify the speaker, adds visual clues for music and other sounds which helps enhance the experience for those not privy to the subtle nuances hearing people take for granted.
    Unfortunately, all movies do not offer closed-captioning. DeafMom would have settled for subtitles, but many DVDs are released without that option as well.
    She had the EXACT version of the DVD she needed in her hands and the public librarian understood all the issues and still refused to make a very, very minor bend in the rule.
    Thanks to BOTH of you for your honest insights!

  4. Sure, I probably could have gone over to Blockbuster and rented it, but doesn't that defeat the purpose of having a library and being able to use the materials there?

  5. Thanks for joining in Karen! This whole incident is just wrong on so many levels - the demise of public service and customer service; lack of recognition of reasonable accomodation; failure of people to take a stand; and lack of humanity. I recanted the story to a friend today and said, "If I were working at the library - hell, I'd have just checked out the DVD myself and given it to her!" At the very least, I'd have bent the rules, loaned the disk and if anyone found out, begged for forgiveness. Everytime I revisit this story (and your experience at the Steak and Shake) I find another angle that infuriates me! Again - it's not just the accomodation issue but the lack of general compassion and empathy. I have a coffee mug that reads, "YOU! Out of the Gene Pool!" I tip my mug in the direction of these embiciles.

  6. Great storytelling Iris. I could envision the faces and bodies of all participants as you painted it. I actually did not have an analytical reaction, which you know is unusual for me. I just paused and took a breath.

    Interesting how the Blockbuster angle took off....