Soap Box Rants/A WEEKLY COLUMN
By Pamela Bratcher-McMillan, President, Chair & CEO, PETAL et al.
I miss Borders. From my perspective, Borders cared. They were the Southsideâ€™s alternative to the public library. They stayed open late, offered free WiFi, food to eat and thousands of updated books for geeks and bookworms. I remember when Borders opened in Chicago. I thought what a radical concept. You allow people to read your books and they donâ€™t have to buy them. I wondered, How do they make money? They even provided seating areas. It was great for people like me with shelves full of books at home purchased on blind faith because you really didnâ€™t have a chance to see what an authorâ€™s work was like before you bought their book. I have read whole books while at Borders and if it was a well-written book, I ended up buying it. Who wouldnâ€™t want a good book to keep close for reference and recall? The sales in the lobby and outdoors were unbelievable. I purchased many books there based on topic and layout alone. They made great birthday presents for the kids, too.
Now, the Southside is back to the mercy of not so friendly workers in the public library (as compared to corporate trained customer service representatives) and books three to ten years or more behind in topic. Who chooses what books go to what library? Many of the more current technology, multimedia, video game, mobile app, etc. books are not on our shelves. If you do luck up and find one or two, they are too old. Whatâ€™s up with that? With the advent of many books being digitized and eBooks, whatâ€™s the problem? I will say in favor of the public library, however, there is no better place to go study quietly and have access to free WiFi without the distraction noise of spoons, forks, plates, loud conversations and cell phone calls shared throughout the facility (another story). Didnâ€™t you come to eat? Hang up the phone!
The public library allows you to download books, reserve books and have them delivered to your local library which was a good way to make sure we all had access. This is all great, but please provide more eBooks, videos and audios available for DIY (do-it-yourself) projects, computer software and hardware learning, accounting, project management, marketing, certification study, etc.
I also noticed that during my visits to libraries outside of Chicago, their patrons had access to interactive online learning in technical and creative software (i.e. Adobe and Microsoft software). I hope the Chicago Public Library is pursuing this type of technology to help empower those in the community as well. It would be nice to see some online learning taking place instead of just social networking taking place on all of those computers in the lab.
In the meantime, maybe Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million (BAM!) will consider taking over the old Bordersâ€™ building in Beverly or provide the Southside with a new bookstore all together. When I visit those two bookstores in the suburbs, itâ€™s almost like Borders is still with us.
Pamela Bratcher-McMillan is a technology expert and President, Chair & CEO, of PETAL et al.