Friday, April 24, 2015

How Much Is a Book Worth?

     As you know, B works at our local library. Yesterday I got an automated call from the library telling me I have an overdue book. I know what it is:  Inferno: The World at War, 1939 - 1945 by Max Hastings. It's a big book, over 600 pages long, and it's not exactly a quick read. (I took a break, about halfway through, to enjoy a Michael Connelly mystery.) But the book is interesting. I've read a lot of material about the war in Russia and Southeast Asia that I didn't know about. I'm on page 480, and so I really don't want to return the book until I've finished it -- even though, now that the book is overdue, the meter is running at a whole 10 cents a day in fines.

     Yesterday, after B got home from work, and after dinner, we were talking about something involving one of her colleagues at the library; and so I mentioned that I have an overdue book.

     "Oh, well," she said, "just go onto the website and renew the book."

     "You can do that, even if it's overdue?" I asked.

     "Yeah, sure," she said. She was sitting at her computer. "Here, I'll do it for you. Oh, wait . . . do you know your library card number?"

     "Not off the top of my head," I replied. "Don't worry. I'll do it. The number comes up automatically on my computer."

     So I went over to my computer, logged on to the library website, and called up my account. Sure enough, the overdue book was Inferno. It was due on April 10. I found the renew button, clicked on it, and now the book is due on May 15. I've stopped the fines.

     Then I was curious, so I clicked on the tab that said "Fines" -- which had an exclamation point over it. It showed that I owed $1.20 in late fees, for the book that was overdue by 12 days.

     And this brought up an issue that B and I have discussed before. She thinks 10 cents a day is a perfectly appropriate fine for an overdue book. And the truth of it is, she sometimes gets an argument -- usually from an older person -- about the amount of a fine.

     An elderly woman wants to take out a book at the library. She goes to the circulation desk, and the clerk informs her that she owes, say, $1.50 in fines.

     The woman immediately starts to argue, making excuses, pleading ignorance, poverty, disability, travel plans, family matters . . . anything at all to get out of paying that $1.50 fine.

     But I think the fine for an overdue book is too low. Really . . . 10 cents? That's ridiculous. It ought to be higher. At least a quarter a day.

     After all, the fine for an overdue DVD is $2 a day. (And by the way, people rarely argue over the $2 DVD fine). What does that tell the patrons of the library? It tells them that a DVD is worth 20 times what a book is worth. It says that a book is hardly worth anything. Nobody wants it. It's useless, a throwaway.

     Which is exactly what B's son believes. He is wedded to his laptop and his smartphone, and thinks libraries are oudated and antiquated. Why do you need a library when you can get almost all the information in the world downloaded immediately to your electronic device? Why store all those dead-tree books when you can download any book you want onto your iPad -- usually for only a couple of bucks, and often for free?

     B's son is a smart kid. He is not a real reader. He occasionally reads a book, but he's got no respect for the printed word. He thinks paper books are an anachronism. They belong at a tag sale where you buy old lamps for $1 and old books for . . . 10 cents.

      So anyway, after I closed down my computer I told B I was going up to bed. But then I stopped and turned to her: "Oh, by the way, I owe $1.20 at the library. That's got me quaking in my boots. I'll make sure never to let a book get overdue again."

     "Very funny," she remarked.

     "You really ought to raise that fine," I pressed, not for the first time. "You know, you don't just automatically get respect. The library needs to stand up and say that these books are worth something. But 10 cents says to people: Ignore me; abuse me; I'm not worth anything. Most kids these days won't even bother to bend over and pick up a dime off the ground. At least a quarter is . . . worth picking up off the ground. You really should raise the fine to at least a quarter a day. Stand up. Be strong. Demand some respect for the books."

     She looked at me, rolled her eyes and (knowing I'm a Seinfeld fan) said: "Good night, Mr. Bookman."



DJan said...

I've never gotten a fine and usually have a book or two checked out. I had to go look and see what the fee is, and it's $.25/day, which would accrue pretty fast. After you owe ten bucks, you cannot check out another book until you pay your fine. Kids (on youth cards) may $.10/day for overdue items. I think you're right about the fine being raised. :-)

Tabor said...

Libraries get no respect...unless you need them to job hunt, have lost your cable service, have a homework assignment and the book you want at school is checked out, want to listen to that famous author talk about his book, get up a book talk group, let your grandkids grab some books over the summer...all for next to nothing in cost. Try that at Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

I used to be a library assistant at a local public library. There was a patron who came in ranting about the fine on an overdue video. We looked at the computer and sure enough the library was wrong and he was right. There was a glitch in the computer.

Stephen Hayes said...

The fine has been a dime for a very long time. Unfortunately, I can't remember the last book I checked out. Love the Mr. Bookman clip.

#1Nana said...

Our library fine is $.25. Just don't lose a book. The grandchildren dropped a book behind the bed and I had to bay over $20.00 for a lost children's book. We later found the book. Replacing lost books gets really expensive...we now have a system for tracking the library books. I'd forgotten those tricks after my kids grew up and had to relearn them with the new generation!

Anonymous said...

I very rarely get a fine, but when I do, I gladly pay it. In my financial mind, I categorize the expense as a 'donation'. Makes paying the fine a bit more palpable.
10 cents a day for books.
25 cents a day for DVD & CD's.

Worth every penny. BUT I pride myself on returning the stuff on time, especially if there is a waiting list. Not nice.

Olga Hebert said...

It used to be that to join the libraries in Sarasota county it was a $30/45 charge for year. When I was renting for three months here, it seemed reasonable. My husband and I read a LOT. But there were those who argued they could buy a winter's worth of books for that. read one and a half books per winter?

JudyC said...

I visit the library once a week and have for pretty much my whole life. I would have severe withdrawal symptoms if you took away my library. I even check out the magazines. Once I actually hurt my back carrying an armload of books to my car. But it is very expensive if your grandchild mutilates one of your books!

Janette said...

My daughter's library is .25 per day. She once forgot the entire set of books for her kids in the back of her car when they went on vacation. Board books, little books, beginning readers. They check out a ton of books (and read every one of them). The fine was about $30! That was too much for that month- so they were not going to use the library for four weeks. Since they were all going be insane without access, I sent the check. (Yes, I am an enabler.)
I agree with fines- but sometimes there needs to be a limit.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 1970s, when I was on the board of trustees for our local library, our daily fine was 10 cents. I've no idea what it is these days. The only time I've been late returning a book, the book was never found. I contend that I dropped the book into the night return box; but, I paid the $26 without protest considering it a cheap "donation" in light of the hundreds of books that I've checked out from the library since retiring 11 years ago!

I just went to FAQs for our library. It includes, "What if my items are overdue? There is a 7-day grace period with no fines. Fines are $.25 per day, per item beginning on day 8, and ending when the maximum fine of $5.00 per item has been reached. No fines occur on days the library is closed."
Cop Car

Laura Lee Carter said...

I agree Tom. I was a librarian for 25 years and the fine system is truly a joke.

My best lesson in business comes from my ex. He started a windsurfing business in St. John back when it was a new sport. He didn't charge much at first and got few customers. Then he tripled his price and his business really picked up... Lesson Learned!

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm torn. Most of my books are on my iPad and Kindle these days, but I still own hundreds of hard copy books too. As for some, like 'Unfinished Empire' by John Darwin, which I just read, I have a hard copy, a Kindle copy and the Audio copy. The hard copy has maps I can't see otherwise.

I used to visit the library, but many of the books I want can only be located in college libraries. Fortunately, Amazon now has an active text book trade. I do but used books frequently, however, most these days are "ex-libre".

Jane said...

Love my library, especially the ability to download books and the book group run by an excellent librarian. Fines are 10¢ a day and I have owed 80¢ for about 2 years... Too lazy to stand in line to pay. I think low fines encourage return of overdue books. I do get annoyed if someone hogs a popular title.

Karen D. Austin said...

Our public library has a great online site. I request books on hold, monitor when things are ready to pick up, monitor when things are due, browse new acquisitions. I pay $25 a year to have a grace period for late books and to have the .25 cent hold fee per book waived. And if I have a late fee, I gladly pay it and conceptualize the fee as a gift. I dub myself a patron of the library when I have to pay a fee. It's a more positive view rather than seeing the fee as a punishment. (I do the same thing for traffic / speeding tickets. I'm a patroness of the highway patrol or city police. I'm such a gracious, generous, and refined lady!) Hooray for B. She's got a great job!

Friko said...

You are right, especially since you can renew the borrowing period.
B’s son is not a smart kid if he doesn’t appreciate the written word. Books offer so much more than a quick trawl of the internet. I feel sorry for the people, young and old, who have never felt the pleasure of curling up with a good book and immersing themselves in it.

By the way, most of the cheap or free stuff on offer is rubbish. I subscribe to one or two of these book ‘clubs’ and wouldn’t dream of downloading most of their books.

Linda Myers said...

I belong to a regional library; books are shared by 17 branche. I do almost all my ordering of books online. No fines for overdue books. Lucky me!

Barbara said...

I do love the modern library. I order books on line, I renew on line and if, for some reason, I had a fine, I could pay it online. Kids may not know the love of a library when they are my age but I have loved the library in every stage - from the card in the pocket to the internet.