Monday, September 9, 2013

So, I got Playing at the World from the library... know, that book about the origins of wargames and RPGs? Well, I borrowed it from the Texas A&M University library, to be precise. The funny thing is, I live in South Jersey.

Welcome to the wonderful world of interlibrary loan!
Or maybe it's not so wonderful. Because, well, you'd think that they'd give me, oh, at least three weeks (the usual timeframe for checking out a book) to read the thing. Note that the book (correction: TOME!) is over 600 pages of dense, dense text. How dense? Here's a typical two-page spread:

Wow. I really didn't know how, um, scholarly (text book-y?) Playing at the World was going to be. Oh well, I'm going to get through as much as I can before I need to give it back.
Oh, right, speaking of giving it back...well, how wonderful is it that my local library system has a delightfully cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all lending policy with regard to interlibrary loan? Meaning that no matter how big or dense a book may be, all you get is two weeks. So, you can get Playing at the World or, let's say, Oh the Thinks you can Think by Dr. Seuss (a personal fave). It doesn't matter that one dwarfs the other. You get two weeks.
Nevermind how much it must have cost the library to ship Playing at the World to my local branch for pick-up, etc. Right? Two weeks. Makes total sense.
Some of you might already be saying "go buy the book you cheap bastard if you want ample time to read it." Sure, sure. Of course I could do that.
Or, you know, libraries could start making sense in how they lend books.
Enough bitching, I have reading to do...wish me luck.

"Two weeks!"


  1. You're really gonna make me bust out my library-fu, aren't you?

    Here's the thing: libraries have to set their circulation policies based on balancing (a) the needs of the individual patron versus (b) the needs of the entire base of library user. In other words, if a book is never on the shelf because one person keeps it indefinitely, then it's serving that one patron very well, but screwing over the rest of the base. A happy middle ground needs to be found. Like all compromises, this guarantees that everyone will be mildly irritated. Ergo limitations on number of times you can renew a book, ergo many libraries having a "New" or "Popular" section in which the lending time is reduced and renewal policies made stricter.

    This is especially true with interlibrary loan (ILL). College professors and grad students love to use ILL. Can you imagine if wiggle room was allowed in these situations? "Oh, I only need it until I finish my research paper at the end of the semester." And now multiply that by users from across the country (such as yourself) who want to take a look at the book! This isn't just locals accessing the collection anymore. Libraries would be faced with books in their collections that go off for a tour of the country, sometimes never to return--talk about not serving the local base!

    The academic popularity of ILL is probably why your UT book has such a short lending period; because I'm willing to bet that that due date was set by UT, not by your local library. Every library I've worked at, the due date for an ILL book is set by the originating library, not the destination. Some ILL books come from libraries with six weeks til the due date! It's all up to the individual library, and usually depends on how much ILL activity they engage in.

    And that's my counter-rant. :)

  2. @David Larkins: I totally understand where you're coming from, and by extension the reasoning of libraries. Thanks for the concise and cogent response. extra stinking week?! Is that too much to ask? That's all I ask for...three weeks! That's what libraries, at least in my area, give you at a minimum. That's not much "wiggle room" I'm demanding, if you ask me. Why can't my ILL book have the minimum three weeks in my hot little hands?

  3. I do hear ya on that. Like I said, my guess would be because it's an academic library, so they probably do a lot of ILL business and have to keep things circulating.

    Sometimes you can work out a renewal. Try contacting your friendly neighborhood ILL librarian 3-5 days before the due date and see if he or she can make something happen for you.

    At the very least, you've got two weeks to preview the book and decide if it's worth buying! ;D

  4. P.S. I didn't mean to make it sound like I've never used ILL before. I've done it on multiple occasions through the same local county library that got me Playing at the World. And EVERY TIME I've gotten a book through ILL - whether it was a book my local library added to its stacks or provided to me from another library from somewhere in the country - they've only given me two weeks. So, that made me think that it was the local library that was deciding on the time frame.

    1. It's possible your local library is setting the due dates. I have no personal experience with that, but it could conceivably happen.

      Otherwise, I guess you're just hitting the two-week jackpot with various lending libraries!

    2. Lucky me! Thanks again for the input.

  5. Not to siderail the fascinating Library Science discussion, but I found "Playing at the World" to be completely riveting. I am admittedly something of a wonk when it come to this sort of thing, but I was reading it in every spare waking moment. A terrific book, and well worth the time to go through it (and read the footnotes - lots of good stuff in there).