Robert H. Haynes, who is in charge of Widener's book circulation, estimates that more than 50 percent of the books borrowed from Widener's stacks return days, sometimes weeks, overdue. At present, he feels there is no incentive whatsoever for students to remember the tiny, inked date on the back cover.
Now, incentive can take several forms. Haynes might reward conscientious students with a gold star or two, or he could be more realistic and increase Widener's obsolete five cents per day fine.
Even since 1915, when Widener was built, the library has charged late-comers five cents. Even in the non-inflation days of 1915 book fines did not provide revenue; fines were for one simple purpose, to force a student to bring books back, when they were due. Now 38 years later, the coercion philosophy of the fine still exists, theoretically anyway. But today a nickle means little, and the element of force is gone. Nowadays it is about ten times easier for a student to overlook a due date for ten days; the charge would only be 50 cents.
Obviously the one who suffers from this is the conscientious borrower. He probably has many memories of orange call cards, all returned with the terse notation "overdue." It takes a week or so before these volumes can even be located, and this is usually too long a wait.
The absentee book problem could easily be remedied if Widener were more observant. Let the officials look some gray morning at the many students huffing up the slope to Lamont, intent on a single purpose: to escape Lamont's hourly-increasing 50 cent per book fine. That is real incentive.