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Book numbers can be staggering at UI libraries

BY EMILY MELVOLD | APRIL 29, 2009 7:35 AM

At the Main Library, checkout-desk employees said they’ve seen people come in with bags, suitcases, and boxes stuffed with books to renew.

“I’ve had people bring in, literally, more than 100 at once to renew,” said UI senior Jessi Phillips, who works at the circulation desk.

But for some, 100 books is nothing.

Graduate students are allowed to have 500 books at a time and professors up to 1,000, said Amy Paulus, the head of access services for the UI Libraries.

“I’ve seen grad students bring in duffel bags full of books before or renew duffel bags full of books,” said UI freshman Ian Crawford, a desk worker at the Main Library.

Undergraduate students are allowed to have 100 books at once. Community borrowers can check out the fewest number of books — 25 — and those patrons are typically the only ones to reach their limit, Crawford said. Thirty-five to 50 books is considered a lot to have checked out, he said, and the majority of people take home 10 or fewer in one trip to the library.

With graduate students working on theses and professors researching and selecting books for their students to read, library workers said, those two groups need the higher limitations and longer checkout periods.

Professors are required to renew or return their books once a year. For graduate students, checkouts are on a semester-long basis.

German film history Assistant Professor Steve Choe has around 100 books checked out from the UI Libraries, he said, and the most he has ever had at one time is about 170. He takes them home and returns them periodically instead of all at once, he said.

Choe admitted he never reads every book.

“There are a lot of books here at Iowa actually, but at other schools, such as Berkeley, where I went to school, you have to wait to get them in,” Choe said. “So that is one thing that’s really nice about the Iowa libraries.”

Chris Vinsonhaler, a UI English doctoral student, keeps her stacks of books on a specific shelf in her house. She gets busy, and they accumulate, she said.

“It’s shameful; there are 40 or more right now,” Vinsonhaler said.

Phillips said the libraries’ circulation department is busier when graduate students are writing papers, preparing dissertations, or have a check-in deadline.

On a daily basis, the Main Library sees a lot of traffic. Roughly 2,495 people had entered through the north entrance as of 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

In her three years of experience at the circulation desk, Phillips said, it’s not uncommon to see people who have checked out dozens of books to lose them and report them as missing, only to eventually find and return them later.

“You kind of get used to seeing people check out massive numbers of books after a few years. We just get a system going, one person stamping, one person scanning to make it go faster,” she said. “It’s kind of funny when someone brings in two suitcases full to renew, though.”


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