George Dore, an Orlando library branch manager, came up with a way to keep his library from having to cull so many library books from its shelves every year: a fictional character by the name of Charles Finley. The only catch was that the library was so convinced that Finley was a real person that they issued him his very own library card. And, boy, did Mr. Finley use it. According to library records, Finley checked out 2,300 books in 2015, enough books to increase the library’s circulation count from the previous year by almost four percent all by himself.
And because the books had recently been checked out, none of them made the “loss of interest” hit list that serves as the potential cull-list for his library. But then when Dore’s fictional Mr. Finley was recognized for the fiction that he is, the book mold hit the fan. According to Quartz Media:
“Dore was recommended for termination and put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. He says he was just trying to save the library time and money, as books that are not borrowed are deemed irrelevant by the software that the local library system uses to track circulation and taken off the shelves. Then they are often repurchased again later.”
“If Dore is to be believed, he’s not the only renegade librarian fighting the algorithms. His colleague, library assistant Scott Amey, who helped dream up their fictional reader was reprimanded for being part of the scheme. And Dore told investigators that gaming the system with “dummy cards” is common, noting, “There was a lot of bad blood between the libraries because of money wars.”
So what do you think? My initial reaction, as an admittedly out-of-control book lover, is to applaud the man for his creative response to what he sees as a too-arbitrary approach for targeting certain books for library banishment. (I always hate to see the dumpster behind my own library filled with discarded books, and would much prefer that they be given a second life in hospitals, shelters, etc.) But in cases where circulation figures are used to prorate library system funding between branches, this kind of thing cannot be tolerated. So maybe my “good guy” is really a “bad guy”?