Plastic barriers in book asiles prohibits students from roaming the shelves 

 In the spring semester of last year, my friend Joe picked up “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” by Eugene O’Neill.

I can remember him sitting in the  lounge of Fedigan reading it with fervor. Within two days he had finished it.

Now this may have had to do with the fact that the book was short, but I also imagine, based on his own report, that he actually liked the book.

But this book was not for a class, and he didn’t have to write a paper on it; he read it purely for pleasure.

And where did he get this book? The University bookstore.

And he came to it by walking up and down the aisles, admiring titles and selecting one which piqued his interest. These days, such a method for picking up books is obsolete.

Head into the bookstore and you will find each aisle blocked off by a long plastic barrier, rising above the eye level of the average Villanovan (unless you’re a basketball player, in which case I suppose that you could get a peek at the books).

A long line runs serpentine up to a counter where a middle-aged man who calls you “sir” will be waiting to accommodate your every literary need.

After entering the title of the book that you desire into what I imagine must be the University bookstore equivalent of Google, he either heads off into the secret labyrinth which contains all of the books that the school sells (telling you that the book is there) or he shakes his head sadly and says, “I’m sorry sir, that book is no longer in stock.”

This process does not necessarily bother me. Back in the days of aisle strolling and searching for your own books, I often found myself confused, befuddled and totally frustrated.

I could never quite recall the four random digits that made up my course number so I would spend hours scouring what I assumed to be the appropriate section trying to decipher the abbreviated course titles and ultimately cursing the whole damned process and going to Amazon.

So there were certainly drawbacks to the old system.

But overall, I have to say that I greatly dislike this new system.

Its drawbacks are greater than its benefits. First, let’s analyze the situation and the reason why it seems necessary.

The only reason to build walls around anything is to either keep things in or keep others out.

Since book do not have the kinesthetic capacity to move themselves, it seems fair to assume the walls were placed there to keep students out.

Why? Well, according to the fellow who calls you “sir,” the school was experiencing problems with students stealing books. This may well be true, but I am not sure if the punishment is appropriate.

Having spent the last three years at Villanova, I’ve always been struck by the honesty of the student body.

Once I accidentally left my phone on a table in the Connelly Center for nearly four hours and when I finally came back for it, it was exactly where I left it.

So I cannot imagine there are hordes of students stealing books, considering an iPhone is probably as valuable (if not more so) than most of the books in the University Shop.

But there are pricey books in the University store. Science books and books exclusively printed at Villanova can cost upwards of $200, which, to be quite frank, is an absurd amount of money to pay for a textbook that you’ll likely return.

Are these the books that are getting stolen?

Possibly. I imagine, however, that it would be pretty difficult to stuff a large textbook into one’s backpack and simply walk out.

But I suppose I may very well be mistaken.

So what we are left with is a punishment that hurts the masses more than it hurts the few.

Being a strong opponent of Utilitarianism, it pains me to say that perhaps, in this instance, they may be quite correct in saying, “do what benefits the most.”

And it’s far better to walk among the aisles than to have someone get your books for you.

And aren’t there better ways to deal with this issue? Certainly.

Instead of worrying so much about giving Public Safety guns, why not place some in the bookstore during peak buying times?

Or,  of course, the lesser though certainly more appreciated route would be to stop charging so much money.

The prices are just too damn high.

But why is this new system bad? It destroys our ability to discover. Think again of my friend Joe.

He would never have come across “Long Day’s Journey into Night” if the aisles were unwalkable.

Our current system encourages students to stick to their assigned books and do just about anything but pick up an academic book.

And when we don’t allow ourselves the simple pleasure of spying an interesting title and going on a whim, how can we even begin to learn? Some of the best things in life are those which we discover rather than expect; I see no reason why books shouldn’t be the same way.

 Brendan Krovatin is a junior humanities major from Glen Ridge, NJ. He can be reached at bkrovati@villanova.edu. 






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