Library’s recall service: a double-edged sword

Robin Humbert

There is a great service offered by the Seeley G. Mudd Library for students: the recall service. Many students are unaware of this service because it is not in the student handbook anywhere (as one student librarian claimed), and it is difficult to find on the Lawrence website. Yet, as one librarian explained it, “After you have a book for two weeks, the book is eligible for recall by another person. After this new person has had it for two weeks, you can recall the book, as well.”

This would seem like a great policy for a library to have; yet it is certainly not without its flaws. For example, a student was unaware of the policy (due to lack of advertising) and had a book in her name recalled. This was a book that she thought she was able to keep until her midterm, as the due date claimed.

She was not prepared to return the book. She had looked into getting a copy from the Appleton Public Library, but the edition they offered was different from the original and her notes and page numbers would not have matched up.

When she asked the librarian to contact the recaller, in order to see if they could use Appleton Library’s edition, the librarian refused. She then threatened the girl with claims that if the book were not returned, it would be a breach of the Honor Code.

It is considered a breach, as stated on the website, to “in any way intentionally limit or impede the academic performance or intellectual pursuits of fellow students,” such as the one in search of the book. But, the student with the book was not attempting to “limit or impede” any student academically; she had researched and found the book at the Appleton Public Library, and was even willing to drive the student in search of the book there.

Rather, the librarian was attempting to “impede the academic performance” of the student who originally checked the book out by trying to take it away before it was due.

The recaller was also slighted, as the librarian’s lack of cooperation covered up the availability of the other book at the public library. Had she given that information to the recaller, both students would have been accommodated, and both could have improved their academic performance.

But she did not. Instead, she said it was the library policy, and asked the student if the book was one she was “supposed to buy for class.”

Again, the librarian is wrong by overstepping boundaries. There is not a policy claiming that students have to buy their books. If there were, many would be in trouble for borrowing from other students.

The fact that she was able to ask that question (implying that students must purchase books and not be resourceful enough to use the library our tuition helps maintain) but was unable to ask the other student about compromising demonstrates yet again how this institution’s policies are unfair, unregulated, and not aimed to actually improve students’ academic performances.