Monday, October 5, 2009

The Mystic Chords of Memory

Some years back, I worked in a library at a Community College. On the first day of school, several new students would show up to the library with their syllabi* and inquire about the locations of the textbooks on the list. We had to tell them that we didn't collect textbooks and that was something that they needed to buy. Most refused to believe that we didn't buy textbooks, often pointing out that we were a library and in the business of buying books. It was a pointless conversation, but I got quite good at it, standing there with a scrupulously blank look on my face until they finally figured out that no amount of talk was going to make their expensive textbooks that would be utterly without value approximately 11 seconds after the final exam appear on the shelf. Occasionally, an exasperated student would ask to talk to someone else, usually asking for the manager or my supervisor. I was only too glad to comply. (I'm always only too glad to comply with this one; getting the supervisor or manager means that the problem is no longer mine. I almost want to tell people that, but I don't want to spoil their dudgeon.)

Since moving over to the public library side, I haven't gotten that particular inquiry until today. It was oddly refreshing to know that the spiel was the same: inquiry, expressions of disbelief, deep feelings of betrayal.
"You don't have them?"
"No, we don't collect textbooks. We would only have it if it was a donation."
"Why don't you have them?"
"Because we just don't buy textbooks. I don't know of any libraries that do."
She looked at me as though I were a direct, lineal descendant of Judas Iscariot himself when I suggested she visit her school's bookstore.

* All those (2) years of studying Latin have really paid off. I can use the correct nominative plural of syllabus and thus avoid the horrible word syllabuses. Semper ubi sub ubi!


SD said...

One of the highest demand items at a library I worked at recently was textbooks - we kept a few on reserve for two-hour loan, about 5-6 to loan out for one or two week periods, and they constantly had holds on them. So...if people will use them, why not... but if you're talking about workbooks that change from semester to semester then it's fair enough.

Dances With Keyboards said...

I regularly get students from community college on up through MASTERS level who are appalled that the public library doesn't have that $200 textbook for their particular class, or access to an academic set of online resources.

It also breaks my heart that most are annoyed that they have to drive 10 or 20 miles to use the library to access the resources that they are paying thousands of dollars per semester to use (usually because they didn't bother to validate their card for remote access for the semester).