All my students in both my schools have been told on numerous occasions, "The book you check out under your name is YOUR responsibility, not your teacher's, or parents', or friend's. YOURS." All students have also been told if they owe a book or a fine to the library there will be no new books checked out until the book or fine is returned or paid. I am also quite specific that students not swap books after they have been checked out because it's a problem if books are swapped and one person returns but the person swapped with does not. These are not mysterious or fluid standards.
Here then in a conversation I recently had with a principal.
Principal: (showing me an overdue notice I had printed out for a student) This student's family member was quite upset because it is claimed the student was not permitted to touch any books and had to sit with head down on the table.
Me: That's not the case. Students with overdues may not check books out but they may look at books or magazines while classmates check out new books. There were no behavior issues in any of my classes yesterday that would have led me to tell a student to sit with head down.
Principal: Ok, I didn't think the story I was told was accurate but I wanted to check. So at what point can the student check out a new book?
Me: When the last book is returned or, if it is lost, the fine is paid.
Principal: You won't just make the overdue or fine go away so the student can have a book?
Me: No. Borrow a book, bring it back. Lose a book, pay for it. I don't publicize this but as long as something is paid I accept it as the full fine, on the recommendation of the former librarians. Also, for those students and their families who have no means to pay I allow them to work off the fines by rendering service to the library. Students must take responsibility for the materials they borrow.
Principal: (unhappy with my "inflexibility" on the issue) Hhmph. Well, fine. (pausing) You know, I have a $60 fine at the public library. It's not fair. I lent my card to a friend who borrowed a bunch of books and never returned any of them They won't let me check out books until I pay the fine but I shouldn't have to because she borrowed them not me. I'm boycotting the public library.
Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, I would like it noted for the record that I did not immediately offer my unvarnished opinion of the complete and utter stupidity I was hearing. I'm not sure if I was more shocked that my principal felt justified in refusing to pay her fine (accrued because she stupidly let someone else use her card) or the lack of shame in relating her opinion insofar as she thought I might be a sympathetic audience. Either way, the shock served to protect my job as it rendered me momentarily speechless.
To be clear, when the Limelets were small our rule was no library books go outside the house. Diana was six when she decided to sneak her new library book outside. It wound up spending the night in a mud puddle. The fine was $20. I paid it because Diana did not have $20 but she dried dishes after dinner for months to earn the money to pay me back.....because I am not the one who broke the rule and left the book in a puddle overnight. It took months because she often complained bitterly about the oppressive task she was assigned. The complaining was so persistent I told her if she spent too much time griping she'd still dry the dishes and pay me to do so instead of being paid. Her account balance fluctuated wildly at times depending upon her attitude.
So yeah, I'm all about the responsibility, though I now have a better idea of why so many folks (not all) at that school just don't seem to give a damn.