...or is it just Tacoma's?
Here's the scenario. Several months ago I checked out a western by the late Bill DeAndrea, one from his Lobo Blacke series. A month or so later I got a letter from the library saying it was overdue and I owed them ten bucks. Somehow, I'd forgotten that I'd borrowed the book; I thought it was mine (I rarely get books from the library since my own is better stocked). I decide that for a few dollars more I could say I'd lost the book and decided to pay for it.
I went to the library with this offer and was told I owed $31 and change. What? The book couldn't have cost more than $15. Turns out it was about $18. PLUS they wanted me to pay the $10 late fine on top of that, plus tax.
Hold the wedding, says I. Why should I pay for the book AND pay the fine? And since when is an ex-library copy worth full retail?
They were adamant. So was I.
Anyway, I think fines are bullshit.
Some weeks after this I decided to return the book (plus a tattered paperback Kristine had misplaced after checking it out on my card). So, according to their lights, I should owe only $20, a fine I have no plans to ever pay.
However, I receive many review copies every month and I thought of a brilliant way to both get the library off my back and increase their stock. I offered eight pristine new hardbacks as a payment for the fines. The books I offered were worth ten times what I owed.
That's when the bureaucrat hit the fan.
The head of the branch library I approached decided such a decision was above her authority and promised to consult someone higher up. After ten days of high-level discussions, no doubt involving a bevy of middle-management pencil gnawers, I was told they must decline my offer. Their ultimate fear was of setting a precedent. "What if someone should offer us furniture?" I was asked.
Decline, I said. You're a library. You buy books. I'm offering you ten times what you want. You save money. I also told them I'd have other books to offer in the future, free of charge.
I was given some malarkey about their computer and accountings, but I know they can wipe out a fine with a keystroke and it won't destroy their ledger.
I finally got the phone number of someone higher up the ladder to call.
What galls me is how impotent this bureaucracy is. It's like no one has the courage or brains or authority to make a simple decision, even one favorable to them. They are paralyzed by the prospect of dealing with a situation that requires someone to show foresight and initiative.
I've always been favorably disposed towards libraries, but when I hear the inevitable cry about their budget woes next year I'll be saying tough turkey. You had a chance to make a killing and you rejected it. And they can expect my vote to reflect this disgust.