Wednesday, May 26, 2004
I heard the incredible statistic that 25% of new material purchased for this library system each year is either stolen directly from the shelves or checked out and never returned. As a taxpayer you're outraged, yes? Trying to collect money from delinquent patrons is an extremely difficult, sensitive matter, however, and employing traditional methods like using a collection agency always results in a major public relations disaster. It's just the kind of situation the press loves to pounce on and exaggerate to make the library administration look ridiculous, like when one library system in Clearwater, Florida went a little too far and actually issued bench warrants for people who had large outstanding fines for overdue books they had checked out and never returned. Several people were arrested on these bench warrants when they were pulled over for speeding or had other brushes with the law. The press had a field day with that one, especially when 22 year old single mom and deadbeat patron Sabrina Davis was hauled off to the Pinellas County Jail in handcuffs. She told reporters,"I think it's outrageous that they arrest you...It ain't like I did a huge crime, like I killed somebody. Joyce's Ulysses just takes a hell of long time to get through if you want to savor it and do it right!"
OK, I made that last sentence up.
I'm hoping improvements in library security and new and clever tactics to get patrons to return material (like amnesty days) will reduce depredations to the collection. Anyway, it's pointless for me to get outraged about this unfortunate state of affairs or to get too possessive and fiercely protective of the library collection, so I've developed a philosophy of non-attachment. I've always liked this Medieval style curse, though. Maybe posting it over the doors of the library would help in some small way to protect the collection.
For him that Stealeth a Book from this Library,
Let it change into a Serpent in his hand & rend him.
Let him be struck with Palsy, & all his Members blasted.
Let him languish in Pain crying aloud for Mercy,
Let there be no Surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution.
Let Bookworms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not,
When at last he goeth to his final Punishment,
Let the flames of hell consume him for ever & aye
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