As resolved by yesterday's Town Meeting, the library now has an honor code!
Some people have objected to this, primarily on the grounds that it isn't necessary, isn't enforceable, and the people most in need of reminders about courtesy and such are the ones least likely to pay attention to or sign it. Reasonable points, yes.
While not strictly essential to the library's existence or ability to function, the honor code is nonetheless a concrete, written-down statement of the principles that are essential to the way our library operates. The fact that people seem to need repeated reminders to check out and return materials and keep the place tidy demonstrates that there is a necessity for… a reminder! Drawing attention to the honor system by asking that people read and sign the code, which they then see posted strategically around the building, will, it is hoped, serve this purpose.
It is not "enforceable," no. If you walk off with a book in the middle of the night, no one may ever know. Certainly the librarians won't come after you with baseball bats (that would be silly and potentially illegal). But in this extraordinary little community, we have some extraordinary library privileges, and must stay aware of the contingent responsibilities. The library honor code asks that you stop and think before misusing the library's resources. It might not seem like a big deal to take just this one book away without checking it out, because you're in a hurry, or the computer isn't working — but if someone else had taken that book, maybe just earlier that day, and you looked and looked for it, and the librarians looked for it and advertised its disappearance, but you really needed it NOW — wouldn't you be frustrated? And if you were the one who took it and somebody else was frustrated, would you care? The honor code's purpose is not to guilt-trip you into behaving yourself; it asks that you think about that other person-who-might-be-you, and care. It asks that you sustain a spirit of courtesy by thinking of others as well as yourself — or in other, harsher words, that you enforce yourself.
I don't know what to do about the people who genuinely don't care enough to respect shared property. But the honor code is a beginning, a gesture, a statement of acceptance of the hitherto tacit rules by which we govern our own library use. It may not offer threats or punishments for those who "break" it, but that does not render it pointless or ineffective!