Down With School Library Fines

Just a pile of dusty booksWithout it, our country would be vastly different. Everyone values it. Having it gives us all a sense of security. No, I’m not talking about the TSA; I’m talking about money.

To be politically correct, I probably shouldn’t talk about money. The only politically sensitive thing to say about money is “I believe that everyone should have money, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, grade point average, or the number of showers you take a month.”

So, let’s change the subject to school libraries. School libraries are wonderful, aren’t they? You’ve created loads of great memories in them over your school career: getting yelled at for talking too loudly, getting shouted at for eating in the library, getting told off for checking Facebook on the library computer, and getting ejected for trying to back flip over a small bookshelf.

Hold on. I’m forgetting the reason no one uses school libraries: they offer books. These days, if you want something to read you can power up a computer, smartphone, e-reader, or electric toothbrush. The only use anyone has for the books at the school library occurs in English class.

It happens about once a month: your severely strict English teacher will hup-two-three-four your class to library, where you will check out the book of the month. These books all have a standard, “ooh-look-at-the-symbolism” title formula that goes “The [noun].” The Red Badge of Courage, The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter, and The Kite Runner are only a few examples.

While you wait in the class line, your teacher will pace around your class, herding you all like a hyperactive sheep dog on caffeine. But you don’t even notice that. Why? Because you are too busy worrying about library fines.

Yes, I said it: school library fines, the newest method of funding schools, 25¢ at a time. It is guaranteed that you have accrued them, because your English teacher told you herself that you should keep the books for the entire semester so you can review them for your final.

Usually, your exchange with the librarian goes something like this:

[Setting: school library. Students are attempting to check out the newest required novel during English class.]

Librarian: Student ID number?

Student [Male]: [Frantically trying to think of a number that wouldn’t have fines attached to it] Negative Fifteen.

Librarian: There are no negative student ID numbers.

Student: Oh, my bad. I meant to say ninety-fifteen. Like 9-0-1-5.

Librarian: Student ID numbers are 6 numbers. Do you remember yours or not?

Student: Maybe it is ninety ninety fifteen?

Librarian: Are you Suzy LeChanson?

Male Student: Yeah…uh…my parents like the name and didn’t want to come up with a new one when I turned out to be a boy. So my friends call me Sooz.

Librarian [skeptical]: Really.

Male Student: Yep.

Librarian: Well, okay Sooz. I’m sorry to inform you that you have $13 in library fines from your overdue books.

Male Student: [Under breath] Wow, how did Suzy only get $13 in fines? I must have like $34 by now…[To the librarian] Okay, so?

Librarian: Well, I can’t check out The Symbolic Title to you until you’ve paid your fines.

Student: Okay, fine. Here’s the money [pulling out wallet]. It was my lunch money for the week, but hey, who needs cafeteria food when you can feast on literary masterpieces like The Symbolic Title?

Librarian: True, very true. Oh, I’m sorry, but I can’t accept your money; you’ll need to pay the bookkeeper down in the office.

Student: Sure, whatevs. Now can I check out the book?

Librarian: Nope. You can’t check anything out if you have over $10 in fines.

Student: But I’ll need it for class right now. My whole class is here getting the book.

Librarian: Sorry. I sent away three others because of fines as well.

Student: The only reason we have fines is because of English class, anyways. Our teacher makes us keep the books past the due dates.

Librarian: That’s not my fault. You can always renew the book.

Student: No, because we don’t know how to do so and we won’t remember to.

Librarian: I honestly don’t know how to renew books either. They never taught me anything when I took the job.

Student: Okay, look, I’ll give [furtively glancing around] an extra two dollars if you let me check out this book.

Librarian: I can’t do that. That would be corruption.

Student: We are talking about a book and thirteen dollars! You are a school librarian, not a politician!

Librarian: Exactly. If I were a politician I would be allowed to be corrupt so I could take your money.

Teacher [cutting in]: Mark, check out the book and move on. You are holding up the line!

Librarian: Hey, I thought you said your name was Sooz!

Student: It is. Uh…there is just an error on the attendance sheet so my teachers call me Mark; it is my middle name.

Librarian: Oh. Well, I can’t check this book out to you, Sooz.

Teacher [From across the room]: Hurry up, Mark! You are taking way too long!

Librarian: SHHHHHHHshsshshshshsshhhhh ! THIS IS A LIBRARY!

Teacher: [Whispering] Sorry. [Yelling] MARK HURRY UP NOW!

Librarian: Oh whatever. Sooz, we are done here. Please leave.

Student: Please please please I need this book to do the homework tonight. Just let me check it out. What could happen?

Librarian: I could lose my job. Absolutely not.

Student: I will wash your car…or your bike?…or I will walk your pets and repaint your house. [Eyes tearing up]. Please.

Librarian: I walk to school. And I have a pet bird.

Teacher: MARK YOU ARE DONE! I AM ABOUT TO SEND YOU TO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE!

Student: One more second!

Librarian: SHHHshshshshhh! Sooz, you are banned from the library for a week for being loud.

Student: Then how am I supposed to check out The Symbolic Title?

Librarian: I don’t know.

Teacher: MARK! THAT’S IT! THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE NOW!

Librarian: SHHHHSsshhshshhshhhhhshshshshshshshshhshshshhshshhshsh! Huuuuuuhnh! [a huge intake of breath] SHHhhhhhhHHHHHhhhhshshshHSHHSHSH…[while librarian is zealously shushing, eyes closed and head throw back, Student/Mark/Sooz grabs a copy of the book he needs and runs for the door]…hshshshsHSHSHSHSHSH!

[As Mark reaches the door, he sets off the “library book that wasn’t properly checked out” alarm, causing red lights to flash in the library. The doors automatically lock in front of him. He turns around only to see the teacher menacingly walking towards him. Determined, he kicks out the glass in the door and runs away.

The second he steps off school grounds with the stolen book he will have committed a class 2 felony, but he doesn’t know that nor care. Eventually, after a 3 week, multi-jurisdictional manhunt, the Feds will bring Mark in and challenge him with one count of stealing library books, one count of identity fraud (on Suzy’s behalf), and one count of not paying his library fines. He will be convicted on all counts.

He would have spent the next six months in jail, but upon learning that the juvenile detention facility had a library, his brain snapped. So, he served his time in a cell with padded walls instead.]

The next time you go to a school library to check out a book with your class, make sure all of your fines are paid. At the very least, make sure you have the student ID number of someone with no fines. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up just like Susy “Mark” LeChanson.

It would help if you only racked up imaginary library fines. Sounds impossible? Not quite, as explained in “Math Lesson #i:Imaginary Numbers,” published this time last year. Think imaginary numbers sound ludicrous? So do we.

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