Caveat Lector

Add these things to the list of things they should tell us during orientation here, but eschew in favour of jokes and ice breakers:

1.) Books can only be checked out for 7 days at a time.

2.) Fines are 1 euro – per day, per book

3.) They do not cap the late fee at the value of the book

4.) You cannot renew books if they are overdue

5.) Once you return a book to the desk, they may take their sweet time checking it back in, and not backdate it.


About two weeks ago I went to the library and checked out two books for my classes. Yesterday, I realized that, although it was hard to remember as time passes strangely here, I thought it had been about two weeks since I checked them out, so, relaxing under the assumption that the lending rules would be at least somewhat similar to those in America, I walked over to the library and pulled up my account.

I had 24€ in late fees. 1€, per book, per day… and they’d only been checked out for a week, as I’ve subsequently learned is how they do things here. Which is great, you know, as I need the books for about a month, and had had them a bit more than two. I also couldn’t renew them, as they were already overdue. Anxious to avoid putting two more euros on top of that, as the dollar keeps getting weaker on top of everyting else, I ran all the way home, got the books, and ran all the way back to return them before the library closed. I needn’t have bothered. Today, I watched and waited for them to be checked into the system, but at least I was sure they’d be backdated. Nope – they’re listed as having been returned today, and another day overdue. Having worked in a library, I’m frankly disgusted by this last detail. You just don’t do that. You backdate, even when you’re not sure.

I was not pleased and not very willing to pay the fine. The flimsy paperback books would have cost me about 5$ each in America, and here I was paying twice that because I kept them what should have been a few days too long. I was tempted to just stop using the library’s lending services, as I suspect that I could flee the country and the debt at the end of the semester as long as I kept myself out of sight and mind. But the more I thought about it, the more it just wasn’t practical… I need access to the books for my literature class, in English, and, as an undergraduate, I’m not even allowed to use books in-library without checking them out.

I went grumbling to the desk to pay my fine. There, to add insult to injury, the man working there seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. I told him I wanted to pay my fines, that I had returned some books late and had to pay. He told me that I didn’t have to pay to return books, and kept getting more and more confused. Finally, I tried to explain as slowly and clearly as I could, “I had some books, and I returned them too late, so now I have to pay. I can’t check out a new book, because I owe the library money. So, I want to pay the money now. Where should I go for that?” He still didn’t get it, which just boggled my mind. What he finally did do was ask for my card, and try to check out a random book under it. There was a block on my account, which seemed to really confuse him and which he expected to confuse me equally. The funny part is that they use Millennium, the same book-keeping program the library I used to work at did, and I was pretty sure from watching him use it that I could do the job better than he does. Finally, he told me that the block would expire next Friday, so if I needed books before then I should just use my friends’ cards. Lovely.

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 16:22  Leave a Comment  
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