I thought I'd posted here about the Museum Arts Pass problem, back in July. I guess I didn't!
Backstory is that, once a week, most Toronto Public Library branches give out free passes to such exciting local venues as the Royal Ontario Museum, the Science Centre, Casa Loma, etc. Most do it on Saturdays, but due to patron pressure (ie, an email from ME!), our local branch, Maria A Shchuka (MAS), now offers the passes on Thursday nights.
Barbara Frum does it on Mondays, and has an amazing lottery system that ensures that the whole process goes smoothly and quickly. Whereas MAS makes you get in a line and wait for 7 p.m. Didn't used to be a problem, but now that everybody in the neighbourhood knows about the passes, the lineups form early and get LOooong.
So I emailed them back in July:
> We love the MAP passes! And we're grateful to our home branch,
> Maria A. Shchuka Library, for switching the day the passes are given out
> from Saturday to Thursday, so as to accomodate Jewish families in the area.
> I'd also love to see the range of offerings expanded to include other local
>... line-ups for the MAP passes at MAS now begin at 4 or 4:30
> for distribution which begins at 7:00 p.m.
> That's an unacceptably long time to wait, especially given the fact that
> most families eat supper during the time between 4 and 7.
> My husband doesn't even get home at 5:30, meaning that if I want to line up
> at 4 or 4:30, to get the more desirable passes, I'd have to bring four
> children along with me.
> At Barbara Frum Library, which gives out passes on Monday evenings, the
> passes are distributed via a "lottery" system. Every patron arrives between
> 6 and 6:30 and leaves their card in a box. At 6:30, the library cards are
> drawn at random from the box, scanned and then the patron quickly chooses a
> pass. The crowd moves very quickly, efficiently and politely, and because
> the library cards are already in the box, there's no delay as each patron
> gets out their card. (Before this system was put into place, one of my
> younger children was knocked down by someone pushing past me to get to the
> I'd like to recommend that MAS branch adopt a similar system on Thursday
> evenings. It would be more family-friendly. It's true, as one librarian
> pointed out, that it wouldn't be a first-come, first-served, "merit" system,
> but it's really not fair to say, either, that one family "deserves" the
> passes more than another simply because they are better able to wait at the
> library for three or four hours ahead of time.
> I'd love to find out if anything can be done to make the wait for MAP passes
> more accomodating. Thanks!
To which they replied, encouragingly, from someone nice named Ben:
> Hi Jennifer,
> Thank you for using the Toronto Public Library's quick reference email
> That's a pretty good idea.
> I'm forwarding your email along to the Library Service Manager
> who oversees the Maria A. Shchuka library to take a look at.
> She'll get back to you about your suggestion.
And I did hear back from her. Twice. Basically, her answer was: no change. This way is easier for the librarians. No, we don't care about library patrons.
So tonight, two months later, and extremely miffed, I decided to get back to my buddy Ben...
> Thanks for this response. I did, in fact, hear back twice from Ms
> Piatkowski at the MAS branch. She said, first, that she was "in the process
> of evaluating options", and then I received a second email, ten days later,
> stating that things are basically going to remain exactly the same.
> In the months since I first emailed, the line-ups at MAS branch have
> continued to grow. I was there one Thursday afternoon and noticed people
> lining up as early as ONE in the afternoon, for passes which are given out
> at SEVEN. You may verify this with branch staff if you don't believe it - I
> sure wouldn't have.
> People seeking Museum passes are not even allowed to wait in the library
> itself; they're sent to a conference room so as not to disturb library
> patrons: yet another reason why it's impossible to come get passes if you
> have young children - kids can't wait for HOURS in a conference room.
> I'm writing again because I feel very strongly that the librarians at Maria
> A. Shchuka have now crossed the fine line between courteously offering a
> valuable service and forcing less wealthy patrons to BEG for passes through
> a physical process which is difficult, time-consuming, and downright
> degrading. I don't believe this is what the sponsors at Sun Life had in
> mind by supporting this program.
> If it's a measure of anything, in the summer of 2008, we were able to use
> the passes to visit several locations we wouldn't have been able to
> otherwise: the ROM, the Science Centre, Pioneer Village. This past summer,
> we haven't been able to visit any of the museums due to the extreme
> difficulty of obtaining passes.
> To be blunt, I'm certain that many of the same individuals are coming in to
> the library week after week, without children, fully prepared to wait
> several hours and being rewarded with passes. Our family is no less
> deserving, but - as I mentioned before - because my husband works most
> Thursdays and I can't come wait for hours with our four children (or ask
> friends or family to wait for us!), we seem, sadly, to have fallen through
> the cracks.
> Yours truly,
Stay tuned... I'm not overly hopeful.
The last time Ted went to Barbara Frum, he didn't have any luck either. There are too many people there now on Mondays, probably because it's the only branch with a civilized method of handing out the MAP passes.
Sometimes I hope my blog becomes famous just so I can be a powerful consumer advocate. Some type of email-writing superhero, swooping in and saving the little people from big, greedy, stupid corporations (or just the evil moron bureaucrats at the Toronto Public Library) with my cutting, incisive words.
Other times, I just want to make nachos and curl up to watch E.R.
Drat - diapers left damp in the washing machine over Shabbos... excuse me, this superhero needs to get agitatin'!!!