The figures published in today's CRIMSON on the large number of books stolen from the History, Government, and Economics library in the past two years do not materially startle the undergraduate who has had intimate acquaintance with the library service system.
Although this is not the most flagrant instance of misused College property, the frequency of such experiences calls for comment. By its very nature, the library is a credit institution. The success of such an institution depends to an infinite extent upon the efficiency and accuracy of its clerical system. It would be difficult to picture a bank which extends indefinite credit for an indefinite period to unidentified, borrowers. Yet the many volumes in Widener Library are circulated with a recklessness and irresponsibility that surpasses the absurdities of wildcat finance.
It is not uncommon to apply at the delivery desk for a dozen books and find ten of them reported missing or otherwise withdrawn. Undergraduates have been known not to return books at all, and, refusing to replace the book, have enjoyed their library privilege unimpaired. The answer, "I don't understand why the book is missing from the stacks; I put it on the delivery desk a week ago," has cleared more than one guilty undergraduate, and freed him from further embarrassment.
Even granting that the borrower's intentions are of the best, his memory may not always serve him in questions relating to the number of books withdrawn and the number returned. Excessive confidence is placed not only upon the character but upon the mentality of the borrower.
The generally efficient library administration might solve its problem by a careful system of checking up on books returned, and thus entirely remove the premium it has set on laziness, dishonesty, and mental and moral inertia.
One obvious method would be giving the borrower, upon his return of a book, his receipted application slip. This would not only safeguard the borrower, but would also serve as positive proof for the library as to the return of the book. Furthermore, a carefully managed card file, such as is used by the H. A. A. in their issuance of tickets, would curb the now prevalent practice of undergraduates taking out more than their allotted number of books. Perhaps also some identification of applicant and library number would render the system less subject to abuse by persons who have no connection with the University.
The efficient and systematic distribution of library books, upon which depends the regular functioning of University courses, might thus become more satisfactory at least in the eyes of the undergraduate body.