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October 07, 2019


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The removal of late fees is simply another example of the erosion of personal responsibility.
I would posit that the economic consequences will not be very great. The money driven government entities involved would never take such an action otherwise.
The funding problems of public education are having a negative effect on the "arts", libraries included along with music, art, etc.
The latest information on the depressingly low test scores of Arizona public school students are, in my opinion, directly tied to the removal or weakening of the aforementioned programs.
I have literally spent my entire life involved in public education. I am the last of 6 generations of educators. I have watched the pendulum swing on techniques of teaching to the materials used.
Funding public education, like any other government endeavor, has always been the largest problem. I have, however never witnessed under the concerted attack currently underway.
I am hopeful that the pendulum will swing back after another election.

I have a number of Library cards and always have had since 1950.
I meet with other writers and readers at the Tempe Library occasionally. The library has coffee and rolls.

Ramjet I wouldn't hold out for a change. The Hunger games is coming.
Books will be out bows and arrows and swords will be in. Prince John and the Sheriff will be back. "The cruel Sheriff of Nottingham—aided by his cousin Guy of Gisbourne, the witch Mortianna, and the corrupt Bishop of Hereford - to rule the land."

I think maybe Librarians are like Firefighters. They hate enforcement. I remember when Phoenix Fire fighters were responsible for enforcing handicap signage. They made it a civilian position. Currently i dont think that task is related to the fire department.
Its like when in 79 they decided to bring four Phoenix police officers to the Fire Department Arson investigations bureau.
And eventually hire a PPD Detective to lead the arson derail.
Alan Brunacini was one powerful administrator.
I was his parents paperboy in 54.
So Jon "keeps scribbling" and we keep reading

"Custodian of civilization" is the best thing I have ever been called, but American culture is schizophrenic about my profession. Try being a white male at your high school reunion and announcing that your career is that of librarian: "Custodian of civilization" isn't what you get; "leper" is closer to the reaction.

We do real work, you know, and it requires brains. You have no clue about what we really do, and it sure as heck isn't date-stamping book slips or getting paid to read.

One thing, among other advantages, is that the profession gives one a front-row seat at the Tragedy of the Commons. In a curious way, at least in the way the youthful Jon Talton regarded his borrowing privilege, late fees fostered a much needed "we're all in this together" attitude toward the shared resource.

Not that Americans have ever been very keen on shared resources.

Jon -

I've worked at the Flagstaff library for 25 years now, and we've never charged daily late fines in all the time I've been here. I checked with our longest-serving staff member and she's been here since 1977 and we haven't charged daily late fees since then, at least. Now, if you damage an item or just never return it, we do bill you for the cost of replacement. We used to ding your credit report too but that was stopped a couple of years ago due to some change in the law. There were many irate patrons trying to buy a house or a car or a boat that got the mortgage or loan jacked-up over a $29.00 bill for a never-returned book. Good times.

The percentage of never-ever-returned items hasn't budged much over the course of those 25 years, either. I'm trying to run some reports in the system now but I'm going to guess it's around 1-2 % of stuff never comes back. And, of course, our staff is diligent about monitoring the stacks so we know what kind of materials are prone to "disappear" and we'll keep re-ordering as needed (can't keep "On the Road" stocked, or books on wicca and mushrooms. The bible seems to go missing a lot too, which makes me wonder about that particular moral system). Hey, it's FLG - go figure. We just determine that it's the cost of business, and I think our community really appreciates it.

As to the Tragedy of the Commons argument that "we're all in this together" I completely agree. Unfortunately, I also believe that ship has sailed and I don't know if it's ever coming back to port.

Congratulations, Jon, on a couple of milestones, both your retirement from "the biz" for one, and your recognition in New Times "Best of Phoenix" edition...

I, too, had sort of the geezer knee-jerk reaction to the fine elimination, but on second thought, it's probably not the end of civilization as we know it. Mike the Librarian puts it well, it is just a cost of doing business, just like inventory "shrinkage" or fraudulent credit card purchases.

I am surprised you posted this commentary without doing your normal research. One thing is to find out if the late fees actually justify the time and energy of paid library employees. Thank goodness some librarians and knowledgeable library patrons wrote to set you right. I go to several Seattle public libraries in low income areas of Seattle with my grandkids. I am thrilled to see all ages (lots of moms with babies) and all ethnic groups there using every resource the library has to offer. It is a change in our culture and I applaud it. Latchkey kids get dropped off at the library by the school bus. And there they find adults who help them with homework and how to use the library appropriately. What better environment to be safe and supported in learning and citizenship.

Many moons ago, I was living alone for the first time in my own little apartment in Chandler, Arizona. I had no car, but Chandler Public Library was within walking/bicycling distance. It was there that I discovered your early Mapstone mysteries. And here I am today.

Interesting post and interesting comments. I also grew up in a household that never had much money. Unlike Jon, I did have to pay late fees on occasion. It hurt but I knew exactly whose fault it was. I think having to pay those fees taught me something I needed to know.

Mike, you brought me joy. The idea of some jackanapes finding out his loan application to buy a jetski was denied because he stole some DVDs from the library just makes me smile.

Jon, your comment about decadence and decay reminds me of this outrageously indignant quote from 1892:

"All is rotten, all is finished, Decadence is cracking and shaking the Latin foundations...Wretched Modernists, your journey into the void is fatal...You might close down the Church, but the Museum? The Louvre will rule is ever Notre-Dame be destroyed."
Sar Josephin Peladan

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