In my last post I was trying to poke a little fun at librarians who were more concerned about librarian stereotypes than things that really matter. Judging by some of the comments, some people definitely didn’t get that joke. Oh well, at least some people got to feel self-righteous anger, which probably made their day.
Last week there was some unusual library news. Someone was actually arrested for not returning a library book on time. That can’t happen often.
The arrest happened in Copperas Cove, TX, a city so nondescript that the Wikipedia page doesn’t even boast a list of “notable people” from Copperas Cove that you’ve never heard of. Maybe they can add the name of the guy arrested, because this story could put Copperas Cove on the map, as they say.
First, the sad elements. The book in question had been checked out in 2010. It was a GED study guide, so you know right off this guy has had some problems and made some bad choices probably among bad options. He’s already in the 25% of people who don’t graduate from high school in this country.
That’s right, in case you didn’t know, the U.S. recently hit a milestone, the highest high school graduation rate in 40 years: 75%. That’s a peak.
A goodly percentage of those dropouts must go on to earn GEDs, because by 2011 the percentage of 16-24-year-olds without a high school diploma or GED was 7%. We don’t know if this guy ever managed to do that.
So here we have a man already on the margins of society who was arrested and had to pay $200 in bail for one library book. His future isn’t looking any brighter.
He later returned the book, and his library card was inside it. Another satisfied customer.
On the other hand, the library claims they’re losing a lot of money to replace material people never return, not to mention the lost opportunities of the material never replaced. There’s probably lots of people in Copperas Cove who could have used a GED study guide in the past three years.
What about the costs and lost opportunities? Who should pay for them? After all, you borrow something from a library and never return it, it’s theft. If he’d shoplifted a GED study guide – and what a depressing situation that would be – he would have been arrested.
We’ve got scofflaws borrowing material from libraries, never returning it, and sitting pretty while they thumb their nose at the authority of the library police. So why not arrest them? Throw them in the pokey for a couple of days, make them pay a fine. At least they’ll never check out a book from a library again!
On the other hand, that does seem a little harsh for an institution that’s supposed to be for everyone. Think about it another way. This guy in some way contributed taxes toward the library. Maybe not much, but over a few years even a little bit should be enough to pay for a GED study guide.
So he chooses to keep that out too long, and thus can’t check out anything else. He’s possibly gotten the worst return on library investment of anyone who actually uses libraries, but that’s his loss.
Or should libraries have people arrested to set an example. This is what happens if you mess with us, you uneducated, marginal people! Maybe that’s not the best example for libraries to be setting.