Thursday, 8 April 2010

Returning library books on time

is one of those things I do manage. I tend to return reference books as soon as I can after finishing with them, usually within a few days. I read fiction fast enough to return a book before the due date.
I think it has something to do with my training as a librarian. I was the school librarian at 12 - in the days before schools had librarians but somebody had to keep the shelves tidy. I taught myself to catalogue (Dewey Decimal) out of the two dusty volumes on the shelf above the librarian's desk. Almost certainly I made endless errors but people seemed to find things and nobody worried too much. My assistant (another 12yr old) and I worked out how to use the brown paper and plastic rolls of book covering and she printed the catalogue cards by hand in her beautiful neat script. It was all terribly unorthodox.
We opened the library twice a week at lunch time and the other students who read would wander in and change their books. We chased up overdue books and kept the little room tidy. Amazingly the Parents' Committee entrusted us to buy a small number of fiction books while the teachers bought the required non-fiction. We used to go to one of two bookshops which supplied schools. Neither exists any more. We would be strictly fair about it. Every class got two books, one would be a 'boy book' and one would be a 'girl book'. It was not quite as crazy as it sounded because my assistant and I would, by then, have been through many parcels of books from the Children's Country Lending Service. We knew what we liked. We knew what the other kids liked. The boys would always tell us to get the new Simon Black book if there was one. I never chose Cynthia Harnett, one of my favourite authors, because the other children did not like history of any sort.
On the very rare occasions that books were lost we left the problem for the teachers to do deal with. I think it only happened twice in the three years I did the job. Overdue more than a week and we handled it by suspending borrowing for another week. Again, it almost never happened.
Now I wonder about all that.#
Our local library seems to have a problem. There are 'express loans', two week loans and four week loans at the library. 'Express loans' are for a week and very popular items like new DVDs and, occasionally, additional copies of books that are very popular. Two week loans are for books that someone else has also reserved or the magazines. The four week loans are considered the normal loan period and you can, if you really need to, extend this once. It is all very fair and reasonable - but some people still have overdue books. They will be reminded to return them and still fail to do so. "Oh, it can wait."
I have been waiting to read a book on the reading list for the lower secondary school. It is a book I need to read because a young student is struggling with it. The students have their own copies so someone else has had this out for more than eight weeks now. They have been asked more than once to return it but told the staff that they had 'not finished with it yet'. How long does it take to read a short teenage novel?
Fortunately I have multiple library cards. The adjacent council left me a message yesterday and said the new copy they have is now available for me. I will pick it up this morning - and I will do my best to return it on Saturday when I go back that way. After all, someone else might want to read it.


Old Kitty said...


Good for you. If someone puts a reservation on any of the books I borrow in whatever library I always, always return asap.

I'm no angel, I have returned books late and paid my overdue fines but again, if it is a book that is needed by someone else, it gets returned pronto.

Afterall that's the whole point of libraries!


Take care

Tony said...

Ah, Cat; so wise yet so naive. Working at a tertiary institution with students who have to buy their (expensive) books, I suspect that the borrower is attempting to hang on to the book for as long as they can having lost (or not bought in the first place) their own copy. Happens all the time, even when it's not supposed to.

Of course, I'n sure that laziness often plays a part too ;)

catdownunder said...

Ah yes Tony if it was an expensive tertiary text I could understand it. This is a Yr8 novel and the library knows that the borrower is an adult - too mean to buy even a second hand copy for their child? Possible I suppose.

Rachel Fenton said...

Most likely the said child has lost the book and they are stalling until they have found it....erm....possibly it is in the stack of books in the car, or mixed into the shelves in the lounge or the child's bedroom, or it could be in the bottom of the school bag....