Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Way of the Future

Recently eaten: blackened catfish
Recent annoyance: dry eyeballs

Man, I would be all over the library if they had stuff like this. Heck, I'd even turn my books in late. Maybe Blockbuster will catch on to this...or, maybe they'll just keep offering little to no selection that is always checked out, and bad customer service. yeah, that's the ticket!

Librarian will lower late fees if you play Dance, Dance, Revolution
Library users with unpaid fines had a chance to redeem themselves Thursday during the annual Patron Appreciation Day at the Wadleigh Memorial Library.

Instead of a scolding when they arrived, delinquent patrons were received like party guests.

Patrons were invited to make good on unpaid fines by donating canned and packaged foods for the local soup kitchen or by entering a dance competition, “Dance Dance Revolution.”

To sweeten the pot, during most of the day the library served coffee, bagels, pastries and ice cream, donated by area businesses.

By midafternoon, the cans and packages were piling up on a table inside library director Michelle Sampson’s office while circulation assistant Katie Spofford was setting up the video dance game on a PlayStation in a carpeted room upstairs.

The game, which was developed in Japan, consists of two pads electronically connected to the video with identical square patterns and arrows. The same arrows show up on the screen, directing the dancers, step by step.

The players program in how many will be playing and the level of the dance’s difficulty. They also choose a song.

With feet on the mat and eyes on the screen, they move their feet to the beat of the music, following the arrows on the screen with their eyes and those on the pad with their feet.

Milford High School student Arienne Stearns, 16, was the first contestant.

Last year, Stearns said, she borrowed 16 books for a school project and returned them two weeks after they were due, racking up a $14 fine she still hadn’t paid.

“I gave them to mom to drop off, and she kept forgetting,” the teenager said. “I said, ‘Mom, you’re gonna make me pay a lot of money.’ ”

Stearns, who has been playing Dance Dance for three years, approached the dance mat confidently, selecting a challenge one level higher than her opponent’s.

The pressure was on. The screen flashed red-lettered words that said “perfect” or “great” or “boo” while the dancers took their steps.

At the end, the electronic judge delivered the results: Stearns scored a “C,” a grade higher than Spofford’s “D,” and exactly what she needed to have her debt forgiven.

Almost 10,000 patrons, from children to the elderly, borrowed more than 205,000 items, books, magazines, music, movies and more from the town library last year, and many of them were late in returning those materials.

Sampson, the library director, couldn’t say how many late fines hadn’t been paid. Nor had she tallied the number of books and other things that were either lost or returned in damaged condition, situations that couldn’t be remedied by donating food or entering the dance contest.

“If they’re damaged or lost, replacement costs of the items are due,” she said.

The teen and preteen girls who showed up to play Dance Dance included 18-year-old Missy Hutchins, who owed $5 in fines, and Elicia Vallier, 12, and Maria Romanenko, 11, who had no debts to pay.

Hutchins, who has been playing the video dance game for four years, including several as part of DDR club at Milford High School, won her round against Spofford and happily reported to the front desk with a coupon she used to pay off her $5 obligation.

The other girls took second turns competing against the librarian, just for fun.

“Video games are things kids like to do, and we thought this would bring them in to the library,” Spofford said before the dance contest began. “If they have fines, they don’t come in. We don’t want them to be afraid to come in.”

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