Freeze! It's the
by Roz Warren
A Texas man
was recently arrested for failing to return a GED
study guide to his local public library. Hed
kept it out for three years.
This is the
kind of news story that brings joy to a librarians
where I work just installed a super-expensive
state-of-the-art security system that utterly
fails to stop anybody from stealing anything,
because it beeps, incessantly and seemingly at
random, throughout the day.
It beeps like
crazy when people ENTER the library.
look at me, confused, I explain, its
saying Welcome to the Library!)
years of library work, this is what Ive
(1) Most library patrons are decent, honest,
honorable people who wouldnt dream of
stealing from us.
(2) The scum who do want to steal from us will do
so and cant be stopped.
of our installing any new security system, theyve
figured out how to defeat it. They just tear off
the security tag. Or hold a book aloft, just out
of the reach of the security sensors, as they
leave. Or they just breeze past the warning signs
and zip out the side door. A loud alarm will
start caterwauling, but by then theyre
halfway down the block, confident that a group of
indignant middle-aged women with Masters Degrees
in Library Science can do little to stop them.
And then, of
course, there are people like that Texas library
patron, who help themselves to your collection by
checking material out and keeping it.
A while back,
a woman applied for a library card at my library,
received it, then checked out our entire
astrology section and carried it off forever.
all of the polite overdue notices we emailed her.
Then she ignored the many fretful mailings the
library dunned her with.
Ive learned, working at the library?
Dunning an unrepentant book thief is a complete
waste of postage.
And, of course,
she never darkened our doors again. Why would she?
She had what shed come in for.
astrology books were hers now.
She was an
astrology buff, so maybe she was just doing what
that days Horoscope had told her to
do. Youre a Virgo and your moon is in
Saturn? This is a good month to steal library
who takes this kind of thing seriously, stewed
about our astrology book thief for weeks. She
longed to phone her up and say Shame on you!
Return our books this minute. Or else.
But that goes
against library policy, so her hands were tied.
story out of Texas, though, has inspired us
all. Now we have dreams of turning up on our book
bitch! Its LIBRARY SQUAD.
A group of enraged middle-aged librarians. Were
brainy. Were relentless. Well hunt
you down. Well never give up.
We know the
Dewey Decimal system and were not afraid to
And we always
get our book.
And if you
resist? Well shush you. Permanently.
the lucky librarians in that Texas library system,
we arent allowed to aggressively pursue our
purloined books. Our policy is to ask for them
back, nicely. (Sounds like a policy dreamed up by
librarians, doesnt it?)
dunn their patrons, which we do. Some then turn
the matter over to a collection agency. Which,
alas, we do not.
Only a very
special few library systems go so far as to have
their patrons arrested and hauled off to jail.
But I dont
know a librarian who doesnt wish that her
If we cant
arrest these miscreants, Id settle for
being able to shame them on the librarys
Facebook page. Or establishing a Bad Patrons
registry for the worst offenders.
mocking them via a Twitter feed would help.
But ours is a
gentle, kind, library system. We dont
actively pursue or publicly shame our patrons.
You can help yourself to all the books, magazines
and movies and audio books you want. Well
never show up at your door with an arrest warrant.
Check out the entire library and keep it forever!
Nothing will happen.
time for me to move to Texas.
essay first appeared in the Broad Street Review -