Thursday, December 01, 2005

Common Courtesy

One of the professors that I work for will teach a course entitled "Women, the Bible, and the Church" this coming January. As a long-standing advocate for the full equality of women in ministry, this is a course that he always looks forward to, and he has taught it nearly 30 times.

One of the books that he has used in this course for a number of years is entitled Beyond Anger, written by a Roman Catholic nun frustrated by the lack of equal access to ministerial roles for women, while (amazingly enough) still remaining loyal to the Church. It is a powerful piece, and it has been one of the first books my professor asks students to read, setting the tone for further discussion.

When my professor found out that this book was out of print, he was faced with the painful decision to not require this book this year. I suggested to him that we might be able to photocopy the book and distribute it through the bookstore. This is actually not illegal, so long as we do the simple courtesy of requesting permission from the person who holds the rights to the book. In this case, the rightsholder is the author of the book herself, with whom my professor has had a long acquaintance.

So, the day after I suggested this possibility to him, he called her on the phone, and was able to provide me with an e-mail granting "eternal" permission to photocopy this work for educational use.

With that problem out of the way, I still have to photocopy the work so that it can be distributed. To this end, I went to our seminary library. I was pleased to discover that we have not one, but two copies of this book on our shelves. I was somewhat less pleased to discover that both books have been heavily marked up with pen and highlighter! Although I will still be able to use this book for photocopying (I have little choice), the students who will use the resulting copy will now have to content with all this junk that someone else has put there.

Now, I readily confess that I do this to my own books from time to time. In fact, my wife has a copy of this very book at home, on which she's underlined and highlighted tons of relevant passages. That's fine. The book is ours, and we can do with it as we please.

But a library book is another matter entirely. Future students will not care what parts of the book I myself found relevant to my own studies. It is extremely frustrating to find that some former student (or perhaps a professor, although I think better of most of my professors than to think they'd do such a thing) has had the bad manners to write all through a book (in pen and highlighter, no less!) as though the book was their own. It's just rude!

So, a plea to all of you who use library books. Please treat these books with respect, remembering that others will want to use the books after you're done with them. It's just common courtesy.

2 comments:

  1. I work at a used book shop, at least until the end of the month, so I could keep an eye out for a clean copy for future classes if you'd like!

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  2. Much appreciated. I have since photocopied the marked-up copy and used white-out on what areas I could. The end result is already in the pipeline at our seminary bookstore.

    However, if you have any interest in Women's concerns at all, even if you don't happen to be Catholic (as the author is) or even some other variety of Christian (as I am), I would consider the book recommended reading if you have a chance to pick it up on your own.

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