Monday, August 12, 2019

What you get for virtue

It has long been a feature of libraries that one is financially punished for transgressions. The most legendary of all these punishments is known as "The late fine". But let me ask you this: why don't you get anything nice for doing things right?

They say that virtue is its own award. And I think...

What? They don't? Are you sure? Cause I'm almost pos...

Well, it's definitely one of those "...ward" words. I know that. Yes, it could be "reward", but it may also be "coward" or, possibly "toward". Virtue is toward. Well maybe it's not toward. Wait, I know:

Virtue is a sword!

Actually, I think it's more like a butter knife. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

No, I agree. We should move along.

"Okay," Hypothetical person asks "If we give fines out for being late, what kind of rewards can we give to people for just doing things properly?"

I have an idea!

Everybody gets a nickel credit on their account for every item returned on time! It's not redeemable for cash, but only against any charges on one's record.

As so often happens in my life you are probably thinking "That's mildly clever." While I am thinking " I am a genius!"

Oddly enough it turns out that I am right this time while you have understated it. I can even explain.

There are currently two serious issues at the forefront of library culture.

One is the trend away from late fees. More and more systems feel fines more adversely affect children, the poor, and the under privileged in the community. More and more systems are exploring the elimination of some or nearly all fines. And good for them. There is a downside to this and that is that people waiting in line for popular items may wait for what seems like forever while someone keeps their item illegally without repercussions!

The other trend is that, while libraries tend to be broadening their services, they are still faced with relentlessly declining circulation numbers. These are bread and butter numbers for selling their budgets to County Boards, cities, and sometimes states.

Under my carrot and the stick solution we solve both of these fundamental problems. Any family besieged by late fines can fix their problems without spending money, merely by checking out more items. Nevertheless, because people value their resources, even if it be a credit on their account, they will have an incentive to return items in a timely matter, an incentive other than virtue being its own stupid reward. Meanwhile people will, as they ever do, screw up constantly, and, owing us tons of money, be forced to check out hundreds of extra materials they don't want. 


1. Rich people continue to buy themselves out of fines, providing us with some revenue.

2. Poor people and cheap people check out more things to pay off their fines, making our circulation numbers soar, and securing our budget sources.

3. The underprivileged become trapped in a library cycle of checkouts, fines, more checkouts to pay fines. This leads to them reading and becoming increasingly enlightened. Which inevitably leads to the overthrow of the oligarchy, Capitalism, and the class system.

At which point we'd have to revamp our library fine system once again.

Which I'm sure we'll be able to handle.

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