Friday, August 04, 2006


Free books!

At lunch the other day I was talking to someone about my experience at the MSU library. I hadn’t found a book, and tried to tell the front desk it might be missing. They dismissed my suggestion, saying “It’s probably in the library, just not on the shelf where it’s supposed to be.” My lunchmate said, “Doesn’t that mean the book is lost?”

If the book were on a different shelf (as opposed to on a desk or something) he would be right. Of course, libraries probably go through all the shelves every now and then, checking to make sure everything’s in order. But what a pain! That must take forever, so they can’t possibly do it very often.

It’s work better suited to a machine. So here’s my suggestion: Put a UPC sticker on the spine of every book, and then occasionally send grunts around with UPC guns to read the spines of all the shelved books. Dump that data into a computer, and tell it to look for any out-of-order entries.

At any place where misplaced books are a significant problem, this measure would effectively increase the library’s stock of books.

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