"You got a phone I can have?"
"We have a phone patrons can use for emergencies, but we do not have a public phone."
"Cool, can I use it?"
Have you ever had someone say "cool" in an emergency? You would be amazed how calm and collected some people can be when the poop really hits the oscillating fan. And to be able to hold together in a public forum, to stay on the phone with the other person and talk about Grandma's hip replacement when all hell is breaking loose, that takes moxie and spirit.
Check out the jump for a little more discussion on phones in the library.
A pay phone in a public library is like a prostitute in a bar: used, abused, and socially unacceptable. Nobody wants to use it except the most desperate of people and often those are the folks staff will let use the library phone anyway. Also, if you have it in a corner or out of the way area, it becomes creepyville where dudes wearing long coats and little else hang out.
Public phones do exist in remote parts of the world where libraries still trust people to make sensible use of their time. These places also lose their phone service when someone wishes to access the Internet because they are all on the same line. The idea of trusting the public with an open phone connection is like trusting a bear with your child. Sure everything might turn out fine, but there is always the chance for carnage and death.
The library must have a land-line phone for the same reason old west towns had a telegraph office: it is the simplest form of communication today. Think about that. A hundred years ago, people would be blown away that business is more or less required to have a phone "just cause." They would have called it witchcraft and burned it down or that "ducking stool" thing that was so popular with the kids those days. While now everyone must have a website, there is still a majority of the population that is outraged when there is no phone number to connect them to someone to be outraged at.
I... cell phones... little things in their ears... staff joined in... silent mode is an option... I am sorry, I just can not coherently talk about this anymore.