For just about as long I can remember, I have been an avid user of the New York City Public Library system. Once old enough to have my own library card, I would spend hours wandering the book-filled shelves of this miraculous institution where my interests were wide and varied, ranging from science fiction to classic literature as well as historical tomes.
As I grew older, it became apparent that in addition to my fondness for the written word, I also realized that I was possessed with the bad habit of failing to return the borrowed books in a timely manner. It wasn't that I lost the books I had borrowed, they just somehow disappeared into the miasma of clutter that was my room, while growing up in Woodside. It got so bad that one point, if I wanted to borrow a book from the library, I had to make two trips. I first had to go and ask the librarian to provide me a list of all overdue books on record and then run home to dig through the disarray of all my earthly adolescent belongings where, more often than not, I would find the offending (and overdue) books. Then it was back to the library where, as the librarian was busy totaling up my fines, I would secretly pray that I had enough money in my jeans to satisfy my debt. More often than not, the fine was never excessive but on those rare occasions where a book had remained among the missing for some time, the librarian was kind enough to cut me some slack. If the fine was $1.25 and I only had 45 cents on me, she would kindly accept that as payment in full, accompanied with the sage admonition that "The books are overdue making them unavailable for others to borrow, so it's only right that you should pay something, but try to return all future items on time."
On those rare occasions where a book had fallen down the same black hole that Jimmy Hoffa stumbled into back in 1975, never to be seen again, I was forced to make the dreaded trip to the "Bank of Dad" to arrange for restitution. Thankfully, in each instance, my father would spring for the cost of the missing book but also required that I sit at the kitchen table attentively while he opined on the need for me to become more fiscally responsible if I ever hoped to grow up to be a mature adult. "You didn't return the book on time - you have to pay the fine" and "You lost the book - You have to pay for it..." Yep...personal responsibility was a big issue with Dad right down to the seemingly innocuous matter of overdue and/or lost library books.
Which brings me to the library at Harvard University, which recently discontinued a 50-cent daily charge for “regular loan items” that are overdue. According to Harvard officials, "We have witnessed firsthand the stress that overdue fines can cause for students. Eliminating standard overdue fines and standardizing loan periods across Harvard’s libraries should help students focus on their scholarship, rather than worrying about renewing library books every 28 days in order to avoid fines."
Are you kidding me? Harvard students, attending that Ivy League University at an annual cost of almost $65,000, are so fragile they can’t be bothered with either returning books on time or paying for the privilege of not returning them. How patronizing is Harvard to think that these supposedly exceptional students – who will one day kick back fat alumni checks – can’t be trusted with the adult responsibility of returning things they borrow? These privileged snowflakes are going to have a rough time in the real world working in an office the first time HR warns them to stop stealing company property. I’m not sure the excuse, “I was stressed,” will suffice.
If the imbeciles at Harvard want to drone on and on about student stress caused by the worry of renewing library books every 28 days in order to avoid fines, I'll tell them about real stress. After Sandy wiped out Broad Channel back in 2012, I thought Christmas had come early when the Broad Channel Library reopened in March of 2013. With everything else that was going on I made sure to drag my Sandy-tired butt down Cross Bay Boulevard to visit the library to report that the books I had borrowed a week prior to the storm had gone down the black hole to visit with Jimmy Hoffa along with not only my socks but everything else in the house as well.
With my father's words still in my mind ("You lost the books - You have to pay for them...") I fully expected to pay for the lost books to have my library privileges restored. Thankfully, because of the devastation wrought by Sandy, the library waived all fines and I was once again good to go. And, if I might add, free from the stress of the dreaded horror of overdue library fines overshadowing my ongoing efforts to combat the mold I was finding everywhere in my house. I would love to ask my father his opinion of the stress that overdue library fines are causing our esteemed Harvard student geniuses but I will have to wait until he stops turning over in his grave!
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