If Libraries Operated like Health Insurance…

As the title of the post implies, I got to thinking the other night about that. With all the talk about health insurance reform, I think libraries are poised to consider long term changes to how we approach the patron interaction. Some of these are silly, some are relevant, others are perhaps thoughtful, but I think one or two are real questions for libraries looking ahead. (I’ll let you guess which ones I think are the real deal.)

Would people have to pick borrowing plans? Would these borrowing plans be based on tax/levy contribution? Or the ability of neighbors to band together and negotiate services? Would libraries provide service to only those who pay taxes?

Would dyslexics be denied a library card because they had a pre-existing condition? Or people who are illiterate? Or any learning disability? Or people who don’t know how to use the computer?

Would patrons need a referral to read different types of non-fiction? Or would a patron have to choose from a pre-approved list of subjects based on their library plan? Or would we refer them to a subject specialist?

Would there be a limit on the number of items a patron could take out over a year? Would they have to pay for the ability to borrow beyond their limit?

Image by a.diran/FlickrWould use of a computer be restricted by the library to a certain number of times per week/month? Would databases be restricted in the same way?

If a patron wanted to read a banned/challenged book, would they need to get a second opinion of another librarian? Would they need to sign a “informed consent” waiver before we let them take the book?

Would librarians need to get malpractice insurance in case a reading recommendation ends up offending the patron? Would there be a cap on the amount of awards for people who suffered emotional distress, eye strain, or the dreaded “reader’s thumb”?

Would patrons be restricted to only the materials that are deemed ‘necessary’ by the library?

Perhaps this is more waxing philosophic than hard questions about current practices, but I cannot help but think that some of these types of questions start us down the path to more meaningful policy changes.