I have been on a three hour run at the front desk of my library, most of it alone. I am getting along with the patrons pretty well. Someone checks out an interlibrary loan item and asks me what the rules are regarding late returns.
"We're all anarchists here," I tell them. "We just trust you'll do your best to get it back in three weeks. And if not..." I shrug. C'est la vie.
They seem happy enough with this answer.
Library rules have loosened up so much, even just in the years I have been writing clerkmanifesto, and I like it. It improves the whole library vibe. Money rarely changes hands. We no longer have late charges. Faxing is free. A bookstore and printouts charge on a lockbox honor system. A person can renew their book twice, but as long as no one's waiting in line for it I'm inclined to grant nearly endless exemptions and extensions. The requirements for library cards and checkouts without a card get looser and looser all the time. And did you know we even have puzzles now.
What are the rules on puzzles?
Oh, you just sort of take one and bring it back, like the rest of the library, but with even less steps. That's all.
No, we don't check them out.
Whatever they want and it's all free.
Just... take it.
It makes me think of a wonderful old Saturday Night Live film with Eddie Murphy where he goes undercover as a white person. He tries to buy a newspaper and the counter person says "Just take it. No one's looking." A party breaks out on a bus when it's just the white people. A bank gives him $50,000 on no collateral because he is white. The difference here with this film is that this library is full of black people, immigrants, the poor and the homeless, Asians, the mentally ill, Muslims, French people, Jewish People, Native Americans, but I still flash on Eddie Murphy's discovery of an America he's excluded from, and it's right here. Only everyone is welcome. This book? Go ahead, it's all yours. Oh, you need a highlighter, an envelope, a paperclip. You need help with something. Sure, why not? You have no money for the copier but really need these copies? Don't worry. You can catch it some other time. We trust you.
And if we shouldn't trust you, who cares? It's just a library.
The stakes aren't too high in a bargain basement paradise.
Maybe everything should be free. Sure, not your Ferraris and caviar, but you want an apple? I mean, why not.
Who will grow the apples then?
I trust you.
Why wouldn't you grow an apple?
I trust you all.
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