Lord of the Library


You’ve seen them: the swaths of bloodthirsty nerds circling the glass prison known as the short-loan section. On any given evening, at approximately 16:57, they’re in there, pupils dilated, talons clenched, scavenging for their next prey—or the second year International Relations required readings.

Or perhaps I’m exaggerating. Whatever the case, the short-loan section has gotten out of hand. The facts: there are just too few books and too many students. Normally when demand radically exceeds supply, the market will sort itself out. But since this is the university library, and since they’ve got a monopoly on students’ quest for knowledge, we end up getting screwed.

The library’s solution has been to create a separate collection for the most coveted texts. So the librarians take all those books and house them in a cramped, glorified closet. It’s a glass, see-through closet no less, so browsers can be watched by the hawk eyes of students desperate to cushion their bibliographies. The short-loan section is even complete with metal detectors that BEEP BEEP BEEP obnoxiously if a book thief is on the run, informing the entire library and surrounding buildings that someone had the guts to grab White Mythologies and promptly peace out. I know because I have tried. Secretly I’m convinced that this short-loan situation is some twisted social experiment being funded under the table by the School of Psychology. Once denied books, a basic student right, what violent extremes will students resort to? What layers of civilization will be shed? They’ve installed security cameras, gathering intimate data on the behaviors of overstressed university students as deadlines approach. The whole set-up reminds me of an academic, Adderall-enhanced version of Lord of the Flies.

Conspiracy theories aside, there’s something seriously wrong when getting a library book overnight feels like gift from god. I’d consider myself a pretty bookish person, but even I’m not willing to queue up for freaking books like they’re Alt-J concert tickets. Not to mention the wasted time spent strategizing trips to the library, trying to predict when there will be fewer people. Also, there’s the effort expended fighting off rabid nerds once you get there. What if a deadline sneaks up on me? What if I’m juggling multiple essays at once? What if I’ve put off the research because I just couldn’t be bothered? The library should not only cater to the studious, but also to the lazy, the procrastinating, and the dilly-dallying! Rise up, slackers of St Andrews! Demand your rights!

Oh, and the fines. The leeches charge 50p for every hour past the allotted first four. “The swindled-and-pimped section” would be a much more accurate name for the short-loan collection. Am I crazy to think it’s absurd for a library to punish students for wanting to spend more than four hours reading? I don’t think so. Maybe the library could get rid of a few of the catalog computers only three kids ever use and splash out for some more books, both print and digital versions. Professors could do their part by doing their best to require only books or articles that can be accessed online.

Okay, so I’m less of a problem-solver more of a problem-illuminator. But please, lovely librarians of St Andrews, in the name of all that is good and right in this world—sort this out.


  1. Most university libraries have short loan sections, and expensive fines for those who don’t give them back on time. They always leave the short loan sections strategically near photocopiers for that reason.

    But, you know, feel free to complain about it if you want.


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