The Problem With the Library, With a Proposal for a (Half-Baked) Solution


Yeah, so that happened.

Look, I know how we're supposed to do it. Put the list of books on the fridge! Or the bulletin board! Or maybe the ever-helpful, "Next time you go to the library, don't forget to bring the books back!" How about an iPhone reminder?

I swear, we know all the strategies. It's just…things happen, you know? You have all the books right by the door, and then SOMEONE notices one, and picks it up, and wanders off somewhere, and the next thing you know it's two weeks later and nothing's been returned, and you don't know where you put anything, and you're trying to take something out and your card has gotten onto the bad list.

And while I'm making lame excuses for myself/ourselves, our local library has been closed for renovations FOR MORE THAN TWO YEARS. To put in a handicapped accessible bathroom. And the next closest one is a 45-minute walk in the direction of exactly nothing else we do (almost). We've been getting by with an intermittent bookmobile and a prayer. And truly, two years? It's a bathroom.

However, I do have an idea. This idea will never win any admirers other than me (and maybe Diana and Chestnut). But still…. You know how they have the high rollers in Vegas? The big spenders who lose millions at the casinos, and the casinos LOVE them, and give them free suites and room-service caviar? I'm thinking that there just needs to be some kind of high-flying borrower's card. Perks would be that you wouldn't get in trouble at the library anymore. Plus extra special lines to wait in or something.

What's in it for them? Oh yeah, right. Gee, not so much I guess.

And yes, in case you're wondering: I do feel guilty. Don't think I don't. I know people are waiting for some of these books. Plus, no doubt it's a pain for librarians, which makes me feel even worse.

Truly, the only thing that makes me feel better is that at least all the fines go to help support the library.

And don't worry: we returned them, OK?

Meanwhile, let's see what we can do about that high-flying borrower's card….

13 thoughts on “The Problem With the Library, With a Proposal for a (Half-Baked) Solution

  1. I have one of those high-flying borrower cards, and it totally rocks — but it has spoiled me for all normal libraries and I have a terrible time avoiding those dismal notices at places where I am not a super special snowflake. (I’m a faculty member at a college with a top-notch children’s and YA collection, so I can check things out a semester at a time for up to two years, but they never charge me fees anyway so it might as well be forever. Still, I try to be a good book-returner.) Come visit — I’ll loan you the super special high flyer card and you can go mad with it!


  2. I am such a library fuddy-duddy! I am not a luddite in any other respect, but it was so much BETTER when the due date was in the back of the book! It really was. I hate the little receipts. Paper wasting, they’re always printed so lightly you can hardly read them, and WHO holds on to them? No one, that’s who.
    Also, while I’m on the subject, I really really miss the card catalog. The computer database is impossibly user un-friendly, and oh, the loss of those beautiful little drawers that slid so silently and smoothly, and the delicacy of the care put into each book having its very own card. I loved the card catalog. Even the *librarians* don’t know the Dewey Decimal system anymore. Sigh.


  3. I don’t know if you can sign up for automated e-mail reminders for due (and overdue) books, but both library systems I use offer this, and it is truly awesome — especially since I can also electronically renew books when I get an email reminder. Life changing.


  4. I volunteer for the local public library, and my one perk is to be exempt from overdue fines. But then the library director says to me, “Try not to have any overdue books. It looks bad.” (and I’m thinking, But my perk, what about my perk??)


  5. As a library worker (no MLS) I can tell you that we HATE telling people about their fines. And I myself dislike the little bits of paper…


  6. When I was a school librarian I would regularly get collection notices from the public library. We had so many overdue fines that we listed them as a monthly expense when our friend the financial planner came over to help us do a budget, prompting her to comment, “I never saw anyone put library fines in a line-item before.” All this is why I had to go back to working at a public library.


  7. I am blessed to live in Cambridge, MA, where the amazing library (in addition to all the amazing librarians who know us by name) has a NO FINES policy for children’s books.
    Admittedly, it still causes a problem in our house for the non-children’s books, but we have been spared what I’m sure would be hundreds of dollars over the last 5 years due to this amazing policy.


  8. I accidentally accepted too much work last month and therefore had a few weeks of insane working hours with zero free time. That part sucked, but the paycheque was nice. Except for the part where it was almost the same size as the library fines we racked up because I was too busy to get organized to take the books back. If people would only read them in one spot. But they read them in bed, and in the basement, and on the couch and on the school bus, and everywhere!


  9. Thanks so much for this post- I got one of those notices and it made me feel like a criminal! I do feel bad about late books anyway but that thing, oh my. It is the books on CD that get me- one CD is missing, where is it??? So small, so hard to find. Single working Mom of a toddler I can’t seem to corral the books. The date stamped in the back of the book was much better, I agree.


  10. Because my daughter has volunteered so much at a local library, the librarian made her exempt from fines. Which was helpful when she took out 50+ audio books- for some purpose about which I wish to know nothing.
    I actually switched from my nice, small local village library about 1.5 miles from my house to an even smaller library in an adjacent village because there are no fines at the second branch. I would much rather write a check to make a donation than pay fines.


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