Sunday, January 18, 2009

Grad Student: Not all fun and games. Just, you know, mostly.

Okay, I've been complaining about this off and on to a lot of different people, but I still feel the need to vent my spleen, and this is the ideal forum for that.
Today, we're going to talk about holds on library books.
Being a grad student can be expensive, and one of those expenses includes buying textbooks. Professors assign texts to courses with the best intentions in the world, I'm sure, but in reality, it doesn't work out so well. I don't care how much it helps with the development of my still-forming academic mind--I really don't want to pay $80 for a book we're looking at for single week.
The main alternative is to take said book out from the library. And this is where it stops being a problem between you and the professor, and becomes a problem between you and the fellow student.
At U of Blank, graduate students and professors have extended lending privileges, and can borrow books for an entire term at a time. So, if the book you're trying to put a hold on has a due date at the end of term, you're taking it out of the hands of a grad student or professor. And if it's a fairly obscure book, the odds are that you're taking it out of the hands of a fellow student who's in the same class as you.
This is Not Cool.
I get the argument that "all's fair in love and graduate studies"--that any book should be poachable at any time, and no one has the right to hold onto it indefinitely. But if the only reason you want the book is that you're too cheap to buy it properly, then I should think it becomes a matter of etiquette-- you wouldn't want a book you took out for a class recalled, so you wouldn't do it to someone else without good reason. Why should that student be punished because they had the gumption to search the library before you?
Not to mention there are ways around this. In previous years, since I've been in large classes with few books to go around, I've suggested creating a masterlist, so students know whether a colleague has a book out or not, and can just ask them to borrow it, rather than go through the recall process, which means that it'll be about a week before they have access to the book anyway.
This proposal is met, as always, with deafening indifference.
As you can probably tell, I've had more than few books recalled this term on me, one of which had a hold on it before I even signed it out. I suppose if I wanted, I could recall the items back on them, but that seems like just the sort of pettiness I should be trying to avoid. And mainly, I understand the motivation--in a class of 15 or so, it can be a lot of work to track down the one individual that has the book you're looking for, and it's easier to just put a hold on it. The real irritation comes from a single case in my Scandal Memoirs of 18th century course, in which the professor actually asked who had various books from the library out, to facilitate the sharing process. I put my hand up. It was perfectly clear who had the book. And I made it clear I would lend it to anyone who asked, so we wouldn't have to go through the library red tape. And yet one of my fellow classmates (I suppose it could have been someone else desperate to read this edition of the life of Charlotte Charke, but the odds are against it) STILL put a hold on the book, so I still had to hurry and return it ASAP.
Ok, I imagine this is coming off as a whiney, old-man get-off-the-lawn kind of rant. And this isn't the sort of "everyman" issue that's going to be made into an episode of Seinfeld or something. But we're all grad students here, and we all need to get along with a minimum amount of fuss, so I think it would benefit everyone if we got together and acted in a manner that means I don't have to run to school on a Sunday in order to do absolutely nothing but return a book that's been recalled for tomorrow morning.
I mean, acted in a manner that benefits everyone.

Later Days.

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