Friday news round-up

North Carolina students win Battle of the Books

Wow, I wish we had these kinds of comps at my school. What could be better than winning a medal for reading? The Lincoln Tribune reports:

West Lincoln Middle School students recently competed in the “Battle of the Books” at the district level and took top honors.

The team will compete at the Regional Level on Monday, April 21st at Imaginon in Charlotte.

The students had to answer questions on 26 books of varied genres. This article also discusses the history of the NC competition.

Borders in trouble

So writes the Telegraph: "Borders, which has racked up losses of more than $300m in the past two years, has appointed JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch to find a buyer or strategic investor."

Digital music stores, illegal downloading, and discount book retailers are apparently the problem, with Borders not the only store hit. Barnes and Noble has also taken a dive, particularly its music department.

This Guardian article tells us Borders' chief executive George Jones "blamed competition from cut-price megastores such as Wal-Mart and CostCo for eating into book sales."

Revisiting Bret Easton Ellis

The LA Times looks back on "he onetime enfant terrible":

To some, he's a kind of Duran Duran of the literary world: fashionable once, but now a footnote. Or at best something that comes back for periodic rediscovery but remains a relic, like the skinny tie.

Article includes excerpts from Ellis's work.

Asbury Park resident annoyed over library fines

This one hits a bit close to home. Let's see if I can make sense of it. So, Ted Koch borrowed some library books and forgot to take them back. Now, he owes the Ocean County Library $55, which the library wants him to pay ASAP or they'll turn the debt over to collectors. Koch is quoted:

I came back from Florida, I got lazy, I didn't go online to renew. Now they're going to turn it over to a collection agency and it's going to go on my record and endanger my ability to get a mortgage or a credit card? Do they realize how ludicrous this is, ruining my credit over a library fine? It's like killing a fly with a howitzer ... Next thing I know Tony Soprano is sending two leg-breakers to my house to collect the $55.

Okay, so that last bit is an overreaction. I'd say it's just a business wanting their damn stuff back. Should a library be considered a business? Of course it should. It provides a service, and when it cannot adequately provide that service because of someone's admitted laziness, there's a problem. The best way to solve such problems? By charging that lazy person a fine. Isn't is public knowledge now that libraries charge fines for late books, or is Mr. Koch just that far out of the loop?

I can identify with Ocean County Library director, Ellen McConnell, who discusses the range of frustrating excuses library patrons will give for their books coming back late. Reasons, I can guess, they use to excuse them from the fining process. I work at a major chain DVD rental store, so I feel Ms. McConnell's pain. Do I ever, in fact. You feel sometimes like a fourth-grade teacher listening to excuses about lost homework: I forgot, my dog ate it, I lent it to a friend who said they'd returned it. And while Mr. Koch complains about $55, I can stand at my counter and argue myself black and blue with customers over fines ranging from .75 cents to thousands of dollars. Some people just don't want to pay.

You might think, too, that your fine is outrageous. But you're not the only one holding onto stock. If libraries just let people willy-nilly do what they want, well, what kind of service would that become? For the people who use it properly?

I wonder what it is about libraries that gives the patron or customer this sense that they need not take the best care possible to uphold correct borrowing procedures? I often have customers bringing in late movies who will tell me they couldn't get in the night before, so is that okay, can I waive their fines? Um, no. You think Avis will waive your fine if you bring their rent-a-car back a day late?

At least, like Ms. McConnell we have the ability to work with the customer, to assist those who have genuine issues about returning products. Went into labor? Yeah, maybe I can look at pardoning a fee. Pay your fines on time and never give anyone any hassle? I can help you out, for sure. Avis, I tell you right now, won't do that.

It's even worse that Koch is all, "Yeah, I was lazy". So everyone else misses out. Koch says he's raised money for the library, he's a library fan. Well, he of all people should understand the library's position instead of publicly ridiculing its procedures.

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