Library Suggestion Box

During December 2009...

Unattended Belongings

Thursday, December 3, 2009 12:02 pm

In my opinion, the situation with students leaving their stuff unattended in the library for hours on end is getting out of hand. As I am writing this, about 50% of the seats in the 4th floor study room (above the 24 hour rooms) have people sitting in them. However, there are maybe 1 or 2 available spaces that do not have someone’s belongings (books, backpack, computer, etc) at it. This is very very very frustrating. Especially if say, I only have an hour of work to do, and these people will be gone for several hours. Or, for instance, last night (Tues Dec 1st 7:15pm) all of the 8 study spaces at those nice tables right when you walk in had stuff on them. Only 3 of the spaces had people sitting in them. (I got another spot in the room and when I left 45 min later, none of the 5 others had returned) I would really like to have one of those seats and I don’t see why someone else should get to leave their stuff there for so long. They probably have had it there all day and have only been there intermittently. Here are several causes that I see for this problem: 1. the new study rooms are great. people want to use them and don’t want to lose their spot. 2. the honor code. there is a perception that your belongings will not get stolen if you leave them unattended for hours. In my high school, I would never have considered leaving my backpack unattended. It would have been gone in a minute. 3. ThinkPads. Why would you steal a computer just like the one that you have? 4. People leave their stuff in the library, which means there are fewer spots for people in the library, which means that people don’t want to not have a spot after they get back from dinner, so they leave their stuff, which perpetuates the problem. 5. We are too nice. If I ever moved someones stuff that had been sitting there for hours, I would probably get a lot of dirty looks. This problem is slowly getting worse. I think primarily due to #1 and #4 above. I predict that it will probably be much worse during finals, to the point where people will literally claim one spot for the entire week and leave their things there constantly. I hope that the library sees that this is a problem and tries to solve it so that there are the most possible available spaces at any given time. Here are some solutions that I have come up with: 1. Hire a thief. This is probably the least expensive method for the library, especially if you let the thief keep everything he or she steals. It would only take a couple of days before word got out and people stopped leaving things. 2. Bring unattended belongings (either collected by library workers or turned in by students) into the circulation desk, and have to pay a fine to get them back (they do this for left laundry in the laundry rooms). I realize that there are some technical difficulties with this because people won’t like their stuff being moved, but it would be effective at fixing the problem. 3. Make a rule/put up signs that you aren’t allowed to leave your stuff places for very long. This seems like the least effective possible method, but it isn’t bad for a start. 4. Advertise the storage lockers as an alternative. This could be done easily without creating a fuss and may help. Thanks so much for listening to my concerns. I know that the library staff is not necessary up in the study rooms all the time to monitor the situation, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to bring it to your attention. It really is a problem and really is quite frustrating that I currently have to be sitting in a hard old wooden chair under buzzing fluorescent lights without an outlet when there are 30 empty chairs in the nice study rooms that I cannot use because it has become the norm for a spot to be claimed, regardless of whether or not there is a person there. In addition, in the “real world” you would never be able to leave your things unattended in public for so long, so why are we training our students otherwise? Thank you for listening!

Thank you for bringing this growing problem to our attention. Library staff have also observed this situation and agree it is a problem on several fronts. Students are at risk of having their belongings stolen and they are also keeping other students from using library facilities. Since we cannot follow your first suggestion of hiring a professional thief(!), starting today we will begin leaving cards at the places where students are leaving their belongings advising them the materials could easily be stolen and that the Library reserves the right to put them in a safer place for their retrieval. It is a stressful time for everyone. Best of luck on your exams.

Lynn Sutton

Dean, ZSR Library

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