Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Library crimes

Working at a library, as I do (I have mentioned it here in 80 percent of my 1100 blog posts, but I certainly don't expect you to remember everything), I encounter a wide array of patron responses to library transgressions, or, for fun, let's call them crimes. One person may be guilt ridden and horrified as they confess to and pay up a small overdue fine, whereas many others will blithely pay a notable fine off, calling it their "contribution to the library", as if their keeping a book past its time was an act of generosity and civic engagement on their part. Of course there are some who go even farther than that and take the fine to be a grave injustice visited upon them. I have had patrons return horribly savaged books, soaked, chewed, bloodied, either hoping no one will notice, or figuring we're extraordinarily creative with tape, and I have had patrons humbly approach me with a book with a loose binding they could in no way be responsible for and offer to pay for its replacement.

There are a lot of library crimes out there, and it can be hard to know how bad any given one is. So I have put together a little guide, a countdown list from the least grave to the most vile. If you cross a line or two on some of the early items on this list, don't sweat it much, but if those things at the bottom seem uncomfortably familiar, look to your soul. I cannot guarantee there is time or forgiveness enough for you to repent, but I suggest you try.

10.  Returning requested materials a bit late and uncomplainingly paying fees.

Barely a transgression at all, and note that this implies that returning non requested materials late and paying the fees is not even a misdemeanor (which does not mean that it is a contribution to the library!).

9. Dog eared pages, or small scale food stain on item that looks innocent and was cleaned off as well as possible.

Mea culpa.

8. Library process hobbyism.

If you don't work at a library you might be surprised this even exists. But any library will have a few of these people at any given time, and more of us have the tendency than you might think. This crime refers to the steady engagement with the processes of the library, requesting items, especially in more complicated ways like interlibrary loan, incessantly checking out and returning and renewing items at the limits of allowability, and constantly engaging with the staff to manage the whole circus, all, and this is the essential point, all without at least mostly using, listening to, watching, and reading the items that are checked out.

7. Returning a damaged item that may or may not need to be weeded from the system, anonymously.

Whether you are hoping this will go unnoticed or not, you are functionally, morally, acting as if you hope it will go unnoticed. The only proper way to return a modestly damaged book is to bring it directly to a staff member like me, which, because it is proper and decent and not a library crime at all, will cause me to do everything in my power to not charge you. We can do wonders with tape.

6. Returning a damaged item that is disgusting and/or obviously in ruined condition.

This is only a slight shade worse than item 7, mostly because it has an extra layer of being insulting.

5. Isolated theft of item because you just have to have it.

You can have it! Just bring it back. Then you can have it again!

4. Returning items on automated return machine in stacks, even though its computery voice says: "Please return items one at a time."

I know you're in a hurry and this is probably a special instance and it's really not that huge of a problem for us and you were distracted and I hate you and I hope you die. 


3. Chronic theft of items because of some weird hording obsession.

A somewhat rare, but regular problem, that wrecks havoc on libraries and our collections. This would be the worst on the list in terms of impact.

2. Intentional theft of material for resale.

I understand that once upon a time no book collector of any kind valued any ex-library book as collectible in any way. I'm going to go big here, and I apologize, but: Even if you buy a book directly from the library itself, if you value it (financially), sell it, or trade it at any value above a reading copy you should consider yourself in violation of  2. Intentional theft of material for resale. 

1. Underlining, highlighting, and/or writing in library materials.

You might as well just burn the library down, you monster. 

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