Back in June, I mentioned that certain people were tossing out perfectly good books at the local recycling center, and that certain other people were, ahem, reclaiming said castaways by fishing them out of the book bin and taking them home.
I’ll reiterate now that the latter practice is both illegal and deplorable, and that I myself would never, ever root around in a cardboard box full of books, in public, nor take home the most promising candidates. And I certainly wouldn’t keep doing this until I had accumulated over three hundred books in my basement, where they remain to this day.
Anyway: on a recent trip to the recycling center, I made an astounding discovery. Someone at that august institution had taken the extraordinary step of placing a heavy wooden lid over the top of the book box. There’s a slot in the box for dropping in books. None of the other recycling boxes (for plastics, metal, glass, etc.) have been treated in this way.
The message is clear: the era of book-thievery is over. And I, for one, am just glad to see those miscreants thwarted.
Still, it does seem a bit…extreme, doesn’t it? I mean, granted, I wasn’t the only patron who made a habit of, uh, not stealing books. I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. But at a facility whose sole reason for existing is to make new use of old junk, is it really such a big deal if people are doing some of the work for them?
I can think of four reasons why they might care:
1. Privacy. If someone throws out a book that contains some kind of personal information, they might reasonably expect it will be disposed of without anyone else seeing it.
2. Legality. Stealing is, I suppose, still technically against the law.
3. Safety. All sorts of hazards are imaginable – moldy books, stray bits of broken glass. Probably not something they want to be liable for.
4. Money. I confess a deep ignorance of how the recycling process works after my part in it is over, but if anyone is paying these people to pick up the material they gather, then book thievery is a loss of revenue for them.
Assuming #4 is correct, it seems like the most likely reason they would put a stop to it. It also means the aforementioned thievery was not, in fact, entirely a victimless crime, and I would feel a little bad about it. If I had ever done it. Just a little.
Still, I’ve gotta say: any town where people are so hungry for books that it takes a heavy piece of plywood to keep them out…can’t be all bad.