Monday, June 28, 2010

Tracking a missing library book

or paying a "restocking" fee.

I, too, use more than one library, and sometimes return books to the wrong library.  The fees can really mount up.

When I worked in the library I always told the pages, who were temporary minimum wage high school students, that they were the most important employees in the library.  Pages put the books away, and a book put away in the wrong place is a book which for all practical purposes has ceased to exist.  Inter-library cooperation with shared databases has helped the situation greatly, but does not benefit the person who needs the only copy today, for instance for a report due tomorrow.  This happens more often than you would think.  For instance, with summer reading assignments.  The week before school begins in the fall there is not a copy of any of the books on the list to be found within 10 miles, either in libraries or in bookstores.  The kids who think ahead take them out of the library on the first day of vacation and then take the book on vacation with them, generally leaving it somewhere.  It falls into the lake, is buried in the sand of the beach, or left in a hotel room.

Meanwhile, libraries get tough on people who don't play the library game.  The library game has two moves:  1) check out a book or books; 2) return it or them in a timely fashion.  I have mastered move 1, but have trouble with move 2.   A large part of my motive for using the library is to avoid having any more books take up permanent residence in my home, which is groaning with books.  They have overflowed their shelves, filled the nightstands, piled up on tables and counters, moved into boxes stowed in strategic locations, and now reside in piles on the floor, their last redoubt.  So why don't I return library books in good time, like a decent citizen?

There are root causes for this, as for other forms of crime.  I used to work in libraries, you see, and everyone who works in libraries has at least 50 outstanding overdue books.  That's because we are fine-exempt.  If a book really gets lost at home--I'm talking years, here--we insiders remove it from the database, eventually.

But we get tough on ordinary citizens who don't return their books, and charge them restocking fees.  Someone has to obey the laws, you know.

However, pages being temporary and poorly paid high school students, they sometimes misplace books, so I would check the shelves if someone were going to charge me $100 for a lost book.


The Sanity Inspector said...

The library here eventually went to a "floating" collection. Meaning, if you checked it out of branch A and returned it to branch B, it stays at branch B. That cut down on the volume that the pages and delivery guys had to cope with.

miriam said...

Interesting. But how do you know which branch the book is at when someone wants it?