Our nearest library has quite a good selection of books in English, which is great.
Not so great is the rather odd and dated system they have in place for members who are not officially resident in Estonia. If you have an ID card, it’s just a matter of getting your books swiped and going on your merry way. If not, it’s back to about 1980.
First of all, because you’re not an official resident and therefore likely to just disappear with a dozen or so books, with no way of being tracked down, you have to pay a deposit for every book you take out. Of course, if the deposit were a small, insignificant amount it wouldn’t really be a deterrent to theft, since getting a book worth €16 for 50 cents is still a pretty good deal. So on the inside of each book’s cover is a “price”, which isn’t too far off the cost of actually buying the book – the difference being that if you return your books like a good citizen, you’ll get all your money back.
It’s not a bad idea, I suppose. It’s not actually costing you anything, but my problem is that I don’t generally have money to spare. If my cash is having a nice little holiday at the library, it’s rather difficult for me to spend it on necessities like food and espressos.
The other major annoyance is that the unfortunate non-residents, because they have to hand over money for their books, can’t be dealt with on the modern, efficient, oh-so-simple computer system. Upon being approached by an alien such as myself, the staff become flustered and confused, talking in whispers and looking up the rule book to check how to deal with me, eventually returning with a book of loan forms. It takes a long time to fill one of these in. Name, address, phone number, book title, author, code on back of book, loan “price”… and for some inexplicable reason, a seperate form needs to be filled in for every single book, rather than just filling in my personal details once and then listing all the books I want to borrow. As you can imagine, this was quite a distressing discovery to make when I’d just come to the counter with half a dozen books.
Mind you, the woman whose job it was to laboriously fill out all the forms didn’t look too delighted either.
Thankfully, I have only had to go through this process a few times, and am now in the happy position of being able to go to the library with someone who does have an ID card and will borrow the books on my behalf, thus cutting down the waiting time from about 20 minutes to 10 seconds. It’s not even that I really minded waiting for so long; it’s just that I felt awfully conspicuous and guilty standing there with a queue of Estonians behind me as the staff fly around in a confused panic and an unfortunate lady has to fill out millions of forms all because I am so foreign and untrustworthy. I found myself glancing around apologetically, as if I’d made a public nuisance of myself just for wanting something to read. I am relieved to have found a solution.
Probably not as relieved as the librarians, though.