Monday, August 10, 2009
Library card and flow
I basically spent Wednesday evening through through breakfast time on Saturday (that's lunch time in your timezone) working on writing fancy simulation code for my research. I had avoided human contact for three days, and had spent all my time talking to perfectly logical robots.
I had such a great time, feeling very focused, so I wanted to get a copy of Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I went to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, downtown, and walk up to the desk to apply for a library card:
"Can I get a library card?" I ask.
The librarian: "Sure, can I see some ID?"
"Sure." I hand over my driver's license.
"Is this your current address?"
"Not exactly, it's my parents' address, I can get mail there and everything, so it's no big deal."
"I need some ID with your current address on it."
I look through my wallet. Nothing else has any address of mine on it.
"Do you have a bill or a bank statement sent to your current address?"
"Yes, but not right here, with me."
"I need something with your current address on it."
"So, if I had come in here, and lie, saying that this is my current address, I could have a library card?"
"But I can't unsay that."
Q How do you drive an engineer insane?
A Tie him to a chair and fold up a roadmap the wrong way.
If your system incentivizes people to lie to you, and this matters to you, you've failed at making a sane library-card-granting-system.
This event with the librarian gave me a headache. It took, literally, hours for it to go away. I needed to drink decaf coffee to mellow out. I never drink decaf!
I was upset out of proportion to the actual "tragedy". I didn't care because so much about the book that it deserved a headache. I was grieved because the reason why I didn't have it was so incomprehensibly irrational. I use less secure identification when I vote. The librarian vetoed my government ID, and would have preferred official mail sent to my house, which would have been easy to forge.
PS I went home and requested a copy of the book over interlibrary loan. It'll be delivered to my campus soon, and I don't have to hassle with parking downtown to get it.