I feel like I should love the campus library: I am, after all, a lover of books. They usually have whatever I need or they can get it in a hurry. It’s huge and has big windows and nice chairs for sitting — quite the opposite of the library at my undergraduate institution, which had basically nothing and was so gloomy and gross inside that the students described it as “jaundiced.” A building has to be pretty damned gross to evoke that. Compared to Old Library, the library at my current school seems ideal, and yet. And yet.
I don’t know what it is, but the people at Current Library who scan the returned books just keep mucking it all up. A few years ago I had a book tagged as “missing.” This is not a pleasant experience — someone with a “missing” book starts getting angry emails and letters both at home and at their campus office, not to mention the exorbitant fines. Of course, I searched high and low for the damn thing (home, office, car, underneath the cat) and couldn’t find it. Finally I went to the library stacks and checked the shelf where it would normally be found, and what do you know! There it was, Poems of John Clare, sitting on the shelf, all quiet and unassuming-like. The folks at the front desk gave me a dubious look when I brought it down, explained where I had found it, and demanded that they admit their mistake. I’m sure after I left they were all “Oh so she found it up there eh? A likely story!” but a few minutes later I left the library with my bank account and my reputation as a returner of books intact.
Who knows what would have happened had I waited for them to find it on their own. The same sort of thing had happened to me several years ago at Old Library around the time I graduated from college — to be fair, they were quite good at mucking things up, too. One of the many, many books I had out at the end of the year hadn’t been returned (they claimed), and I got hit with a $53 lost-book fee. Back then, I had no choice but to pay it and move on with my life. I had already moved out west and had no way of dealing with the situation other than to check that I did not, in fact, have the book in my possession, and give them their damned money. But guess what? Five years later (five years!) I received a check from them for $53. They had finally found the book, in the stacks, where it was supposed to be. I guess they only noticed when someone tried to check it out. Not a popular book, I assume.
Today, I logged on to my library account and saw that again I seem to have a book “missing,” and again, I know I have returned it. I have never, in this whole sordid history, actually lost a library book. But now, unless this one turns up in the stacks, it looks like I am facing a $90 fine. I suppose I’ll have to go investigate the matter myself. If I find the “missing” book sitting on the shelf again, I am going to have to unleash my fists of fury on some damned library staff. (I will of course do this silently; I respect that the library is a place for quiet study.) If, on the other hand, the book is not there, I don’t know what I will do. Maybe blame the dog. Would a dachshund pelt fetch $90 on the black market?