NEWS

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February 27, 2004

Regenstein officials cracking down on book hogs

For students who think they can keep books in lockers in the Regenstein Library without checking them out, the Privileges Office has another message: Do so only if you wish to lose your locker privileges and forfeit your rental fee.

While the policy is stated on the locker rental receipt and on the Regenstein website, some students are skeptical of how rigorously it is enforced. To these students, the threat of library staff searching lockers is hollow, and so they effectively take books out of circulation.

"I knew that I wasn't supposed to keep an uncharged book in my locker, but I didn't really think that someone was going to go looking through my stuff and find the one book that wasn't checked out," said a first-year in the College, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He added that, after being caught, he received notification by e-mail that he would not be able to rent a locker for the duration of the quarter or for the following quarter.

This student, like most with uncharged books in their lockers, has only one or two items stored away improperly. According to Benjamin Murphy, privileges/entry control supervisor, there are only a few patrons with large stashes of uncharged books.

"The penalties for keeping uncharged books will range, depending upon the seriousness of the infraction," he said. "If the violation is only one or two books, the standard penalty is a two-quarter suspension and forfeit of the rental fee. Storing many more books may earn a more serious penalty."

The library considers its penalties to serve an important purpose. While the uncharged books sit in lockers, to library staff these books are "lost," which may lead to the unnecessary ordering of new copies.

The always library seeks to avoid such frivolous expenditures, according to officials.

Murphy said lockers are searched several times a quarter by library staff. They use a scan gun to read barcodes and make sure the books have been checked out.

Library officials said they have no record of finding illegal substances in a locker. Murphy said that students' most frequent reaction to being told that they have an unchecked book is that they "forgot," or "didn't mean to."

"Pardons are granted on a case-by-case basis," Murphy said.

According to officials, there appears to be no particular type of book that is most likely to be stored without being charged. While reading room materials might be a strong candidate to be stored wrongfully—they cannot be checked out—it turns out that that they are not especially hoarded. Only three out of the 359 uncharged books found during fall quarter were reported to be from the reading room. Murphy admitted, however, that "the number might be slightly higher."

For many students who need certain volumes for their work, these uncharged stowaway books are a great cause of frustration. While working on a paper, third-year in the College Ian Hawkins needed a copy of an opera. Although the library website indicated that there were three copies and none of them were checked out, none were on the shelf.

"I knew another class was covering the opera so I was almost positive the scores were taken and left in lockers rather than withdrawn or mis-shelved," said Hawkins, who has worked for the library in the past. "Though books are sometimes mis-shelved, three books in that circumstance is an aberration from my experience."

The problem of storing uncharged books in lockers has probably diminished, according to Murphy. He credits an increasingly sophisticated enforcement system with more successfully regulating violations. Murphy said that the price-hike in locker rental fees in the last year is not related to abuse of locker privileges.

"The rental fees hadn't changed in 27 years, and we decided that instead of charging different fees for different circumstances, we would standardize everything to $5 per quarter," he said.

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