390. Hitler's nanny
© Bruce Goodman 4 November 2014

The old school librarian was a charmer. Overdue books didn’t greatly matter. There was never a fine. “Just try and get it back tomorrow if you can.”

All students issued and returned their own books on the computers. There were no beeps at the doors that went ding-dong if someone tried to walk out with an unissued book. On rainy days, the library was packed with students reading, playing chess and cards, and studying. The annual library fair made thousands of dollars; organized by the librarian, but run by the students of course. At the fair, new books were bought and donated like they were going out of fashion.

One year the library lost thirteen books. The library ran on old-fashioned trust. It’s not good enough, said the school principal, and he sacked the irresponsible librarian.

A new librarian was appointed. She was outraged, horrified, disgusted. Of the thousand or so books out, eighty-seven were overdue. Hefty fines were imposed.

On rainy days, no one with wet shoes could enter the library. The book fair was a flop. Appointed and trained librarians alone were able to issue and return books. The librarians wore special badges. Book thief detector ding-dong things were installed at the door. The kids called the librarian “Hitler’s Nanny”.

A mere one hundred and forty-five books went missing in the first year. The principal was delighted. It was good to get some discipline back into the library. It didn’t matter that most kids had given up recreational reading. Who cares? Discipline. It looks good from outside. That’s what parents want.

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