AL IDEAS Ben Choiniere
Because this is perhaps the most hated idea I will explain myself a bit.
Monday October 15th I finish dinner and walk out of Commons. There happens to be a large group of people I associate with standing by the benches in front of the mentioned building. The usual banter is going on with a few interesting twists here and there. Eventually, the conversation turns to the library book one of my friends is holding. This friend, “Nick”, has decided to borrow an assigned reading book from the library instated of buying it. Before you applaud Nick for his thriftiness, consider the ethicality of his note taking. Nick decided it would be perfectly acceptable to take notes (extensive ones) in the book. The conversation went something like this: Nick: Why would I buy the book if the library has it. Ben: SO are you going to return it? Nick: Well I’ll try and erase the notes. Ben: Wait… you’ve been taking notes in the book, are you kidding. Nick: [Look of ambivalence] Ben: I wonder if you could buy it from the library. Girl: Just don’t return it. I have never paid for a book that I kept. (side note: I’m pretty sure she used to work in the library) Ben: Wow. Nick: [Laughing] I mean who cares. While this exchange was pretty reprehensible what was worse…almost everyone around agreed with these idiots.
This got me thinking what is the value of the texts we have? Moreover, what is the value of the system that allows the lending of said texts?
Tuesday October 16th Two girls and I are having a half drunk conversation about how awesome ILIAD is. Read that last sentence again. The most amazing thing about this conversation was what emerged about the relationship between the higher fines on ILIAD books and their value as resources. Essentially, taking ILIAD books out was seen as a awesome advantage in researching, but this was almost always followed by a warning to heed the paper that is taped on to the ILIAD books. That paper outlines the penalties for holding a book past its return date. There is no arguing that the books are valued because they would be otherwise unavailable, but I wondered if increasing the fines on some books which were in our library would increase the ‘value’ as resources.
My outrageous idea was motivated by these experiences. It was a loaded idea, one doomed by its very nature. But in its failure we might learn something about what we value about the library and its dusty stacks. I proposed that we turn the library into a cross between Amazon.com and a commodities exchange. My proposal:
All books have a paper taped on (like ILIAD) that lists an average price for the book. Some books would of course be priceless, or near priceless. If you did not return the book after a certain date you have the option to buy the book at the current value, or trade for another of equal value. This would be done through a computer interface. The Idea that the library is a place where information can be shared is melted away and a new market economy is created. One could even profit form trading books which they believe will become more valuable.
- “Why” – It’s shocking. That’s the point.
- “It would be hard to replace some books” – True but these books would be so expensive it would be prohibitive to buy them.
- “I feel like the point of a library is that it is a free open space” – I agree.
- “One interesting aspect of this is the removal of the library as authority [and moving] to community as authority” – This is true, and I wonder how much the community actually invests in the library currently.
- “I check things out from the library so that I don’t have to buy them. What gives?” – apparently so do people like Nick. (see Jess's comments below)
- “No this can’t happen. It will change the library too much and it won’t be what it needs to be.” – I agree, but wish that the person explained what the library needs to be. That sounds important.
- A couple of people actually thought this would be a good idea with infrequently read books.
- “The Library should be a place where info is shared” – Yes.
- “WHAT WE WANT IS FREE!” – OK!
- Some idea about indentured servitude for repaying late fees. – I love it, but it’s outside the scope of the original idea.
What did I learn?:
People like the library because they are cheep. Seriously though, by taking away some core values of the library in this thought experiment we see that the most important values revolve around the fact that the place is free, open, and shared. Changes to the library which are incongruent with these values will likely be unsuccessful. That being said, I think a game version of what I suggested would be awesome. Commodities trading for book collecting. Picture this scene in Crossett. http://media.canada.com/idl/ntnp/20060419/179157-60371.jpg
Ben - I just wrote this really long response, and then accidently hit Apple + R while typing my line break. R stands for Reload. I lost the whole thing. Boo.
Anyway, the gist of it was, I agree with you. You misquoted my comment. What I was refering to when I said "What gives?" was Oceana's example of setting up the library table in commons and people being turned off when they found out the book weren't for sale. How does that thought process work, "Oh, wow! Look at this cool book! Wait, I don't have to pay for it? Well, nevermind then." Do they want it in their personal collection forever? Is it a fashion accessory? Is returning the book too much of a hasssle? Is the library just plain "uncool?" Or, are they simply disillusioned when they find out the book has "no value"?
To quote Nick, "Who cares?" A lot of students here never even see their library fines, they go straight onto the bill at the end of term and their parents pay it. I know for a fact that many faculty, who have due dates but are not charged late fees, keep books for the entire term, or year, or longer. There's definitely something to be said for increased fines, as well as more in-your-face fines.
And what if the library was a Barnes and Noble? You know, with a Starbucks and everything. People would totally hang out there. No question.