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Complex Rules for Etiquette

November 11, 2013

If you smoke pot at home, please keep library items away from the smoke. We’ve been getting more and more stuff—books, DVDs—coming back reeking of pot. With DVDs, I don’t know if the smell sticks to the plastic or just the cardboard and paper, but it sticks.

It takes a long time to air out. Please don’t do this.

Tobacco smoke is just as bad. It seems to me we’ve had less tainting by tobacco smoke recently, but marijuana smoke is definitely on the rise. It’s better than cat pee, but not by much.

People come in smelling of wood smoke, barbecue, bacon, chlorine, Mexican food, Chinese food, bar food, whiskey, beer, cattle, horse, but none of these seem to persist in library items. People also come in smelling of gasoline, patchouli oil, and yes, cat pee, and these do persist.

The last three require the replacement of infected items. We’ve tolerated gasoline smells in automotive manuals, but it’s a smell that can spread.

We get the question sometimes of how to de-odorize a book. A vacuum chamber would be best, although this could make a book brittle by dehydration or volatilizing glues and laminates.

The sun works wonders, too. Sunlight fades materials and yellows paper, but the smell goes away quicker. Otherwise, it takes patient airing out in the shade. Eventually, most odors drift away. But not all.

In close quarters, one can spare fellow inhabitants the odors by sealing the book in a plastic bag with kitty litter or other absorbent. However, many kitty litters are scented and one may merely exchange odors.

Library stuff can be long-lived, but we all have to be careful with it. The library has some very old and valuable things, such as the Hayden Survey atlases from 1877 and 1881. Of course, they don’t check out and are rarely consulted. Theirs is a gentle, monastic existence.

But we are basically a circulating library, and much of the collection leaves the library for homes and cars of varying temperatures, humidity, and cleanliness. The DVD collection gets a lot of circulation, and it’s remarkable how beat-up they get. You’d think DVDs were Frisbees.

In fairness, we live in a dry, gritty environment, and it takes but a whisper to scratch a DVD. The library has a polisher to remove light abrasion, but it can’t remove deeper pits and gouges.

The important thing to remember is that library stuff is your stuff … and … it’s also mine. We share it. The same goes for the library building. It doesn’t do to ask that we treat the library as we would our own homes, because homes vary in the treatment they receive.

Instead, we can use the library in a way that does not disturb others. This includes adults on cell phones, children playing video games, and the staff—we’ve started a “Quiet!” campaign amongst ourselves.

One can follow a set of complex rules for etiquette, or one can take a simpler approach: avoid disturbing others. However, it does mean giving up a little of “me.”

This works in a larger equation. We live in an every-man-for-himself society. Not much margin for error. Imagine—it’s easy if you try—that we didn’t think about ourselves but only of those around us. Do the math.

Not only would we have many more people looking out for us, but we would necessarily enjoy that part of our nature that every spiritual tradition (except maybe Klingon) has emphasized as the path to Heaven—kindness and generosity.


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One Comment
  1. Richard Reina permalink

    HI Jeff, Cousin Rick here. Well, another great column from you. I never would have occurred to me that an unwanted by-product of Colorado’s marijuana laws would be the infestation of library materials. Live and learn! Don’t let the neo-cons hear about this, though, as it will give them one more reason for repeal! My best to your Mom. Rick Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2013 16:41:12 +0000 To:

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