The Graveyard

At my library, we recently started up a circulating video game collection.  Since we didn’t have a huge budget and we knew the collection was going to be rather small, we opted to go stark naked with security.  There’s also an amazing vibe here in Portland, Maine.  People really have a lot of trust in each other and everyone has a lot of faith in each other.  We put the games out on the shelf in the cases, did our best to monitor things, and went about our business at the library.

Recently, we’ve had some stuff stolen.  Instead of going all hush hush about it, my teen library co-conspirator Michael W. and I put together a little graveyard to remember the games that have been swiped.  Our goal wasn’t to shame the thieves into returning the games.  Instead, we wanted to show our community that this is a real problem and that while, yes, we’re a bit upset, it’s not us who’s hurt the most.  It’s the community that’s hurt the most.

It sounds like a passive aggressive thing, but I assure you that’s not where we’re coming from.  Often times, when something bad happens in libraries we’re trying our best to keep it quiet.  Instead, we’re talking about it and attempting to create a discussion.  Has it worked?  Lots of folks are coming around to the teen library and when they leave we’re having to pick their jaws up off the floor.  They’re amazed that people could steal from a library and at the same time they want to know what they can do to help.  Sure, maybe we lost a few games, but in the end I think we’re creating a stronger, more aware community, one that respects and loves its library.

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The aftermath?  We’re going to start storing the games behind our desk.  It protects our investment but even better yet it ensures that these games will be part of the library for a long time for the rest of the community to enjoy.

By TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

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8 thoughts on “The Graveyard”

  1. This is an excellent idea!

    “Often times, when something bad happens in libraries we’re trying our best to keep it quiet.”

    This is so true–and as one of the people behind LosingLibraries.org, I have been hearing (or not hearing) a lot lately about how library directors don’t want their libraries listed because they don’t want their communities to know about their financial problems. This kind of thinking is insane, and doesn’t help the library. We need to let communities know when we have problems, like with your videogames. That’s part of transparency. Not enough libraries have it :(

  2. Might part of the problem be that the checkout time is not long enough? It takes me over a month to finish most games. What is the checkout time and are renewals possible, even for items with holds? Something to think about anyways. I hope some of them reappear. Every year at my library some books go missing at inventory but almost as many are found.

  3. I thought the wording on the sign was great: “It’s not stealing from us in the library, it’s stealing from you and your friends.” It made me a little sad. I think that making it more public is creating better more supportive culture though. People should be disappointed in their neighbors and friends that they are stealing from them. They are taking taxpayer money selfishly as their own. I like that you’re making it transparent. Also, it was interesting to see how many games actually got pilfered.

  4. Thanks for all the replies everyone!

    Laura: “We need to let communities know when we have problems”. I feel like there’s this idea that problems are bad and we live in a trouble free world. I think life is a lot easier when we ditch that idea and embrace reality. We have ups, we have downs, and we do what we can to just make our community stronger.

    David: “Might part of the problem be that the checkout time is not long enough?” We loan out our games for 1 week and then the patron can renew them twice if they are not on hold for someone else. We don’t have a lot of games in our system (112 total) and we’re an urban library in a mid sized city. The games have a lot of demand. I am hoping some show up soon!

    Andy: I give full credit to my teen library cohort Michael W. for that sign. That was all his wording and I think he did a bang up job.

    Cisop: Thanks for the read!

    A follow up: We caught one of the people stealing games. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but it was a small victory for the community and the library.

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