For the first time ever in my life I got a library fine. It wasn’t much, only thirty cents.
It was totally my fault. I took a book out and simply assumed that the loan period was three weeks (which is normally how long one can keep the book). But this book has hundreds of holds on it and for these highly-in-demand books, the loan period is two weeks. I could have checked — and there are multiple ways of doing this online — but I didn’t.
When I brought the book back this morning and asked to pay the fine, the librarian looked up my account on his computer and said, “Never mind, you’ve never had fines, so forget it.”
His leniency actually made me feel bad. I know that the library imposes fines only as a means of making sure that users return their books. The fines are so small that I don’t, for a minute, think that they are a source of revenue for the library.
I felt bad because I had broken the commitment to return the book on time when I took the book out. It’s all part of good citizenship, just like not littering, sorting the recyclables from garbage, not spitting, and thousands of other obligations that we have as citizens. We may not think much of fulfilling these obligations, but they are really what enable us to live harmoniously in a community. It is never about whether we will get a fine for breaking the rules.