Books on the Nightstand discussion

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Podcast Episode Discussions > #344 Ethical Dilemma

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message 1: by Don (new)

Don | 49 comments I thought the discussion of whether it was right or wrong to take a book from a private lending library to be interesting. It seems to me there are two ways to judge it. The ethics of rules or the ethics of care.

The ethics of rules says following the rule is best for the group as a whole most of the time even if it is troublesome in some instances. It is possible she could have broken a rule as to who can borrow the books so she shouldn't have taken one.

The ethics of care asks who is being harmed/helped in any given situation to decide what is right. The books are there to be read by people in the building unless otherwise stated.

I'm in the 2nd group. She is a book lover. The library was set up by book lovers. If she were to take a book to sell it, that would be wrong. It would be nice to repay the library with another book on a return visit.

We have a library at our swimming pool. I don't think anyone gives a flip who takes a book; member, guest, or pizza delivery person. I just hate to throw a book in the trash can.


message 2: by Linda (new)

Linda | 2781 comments Mod
Don wrote: "I thought the discussion of whether it was right or wrong to take a book from a private lending library to be interesting. It seems to me there are two ways to judge it. The ethics of rules or the ..."

Shudder - at the thought of a book being thrown in a trash can.

Seems you thought this out very well, Don. I agree with you.


message 3: by Amy (last edited Aug 14, 2015 05:05PM) (new)

Amy (amybf) | 144 comments I listened to this episode with interest. We have a lending library in the kitchen at my workplace. A cabinet where the people on my floor stack books to borrow and swap. There's a sign on the front of it that says, "2 Howe St. 3rd Floor Lending Library: Take one/leave one and enjoy!" Technically that would indicate that it's only for staffers on the 3rd floor of 2 Howe St., I suppose. But I've seen other employees from the 2nd floor and from other buildings altogether (who come to our building to use the large conference room on our floor) take books and never reciprocate with replacements. Is that "stealing"? I would say no because I'm with you, Don --I'd rather see a book being read than tossed in the bucket. But it can also be pretty annoying for the staffers on the 3rd floor who feel like they are continuously providing free books to people who don't give back in return.


message 4: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 790 comments This was an interesting topic. I wish we knew more about how the books were displayed. It sounds like it was in an area open to all the apartments in the building and that there was no signage. To me, that signals that the nurse did nothing wrong. Presumably whoever set up the library realized that all the residents would have visitors so if there were restrictions, say "residents only" he/she would have posted them.


message 5: by Maudaevee (new)

Maudaevee | 8 comments I used to live in a condo that had a swap shelf in the club house, often guests/non residents would pick up books while there and it never really bothered me. They are there to be shared and if the building felt strongly about having them go only to residents, I would think they'd post that.

I have felt a little guilty a few times at my library swap shelf, because I have found more than I was dropping off. I always try to remember to make up the difference on my next visit but honestly the staff there have told me to help myself as way more books get dropped off than picked up.


message 6: by Amy (new)

Amy | 6 comments What if someone walked into your home and took a book off your shelf without asking? There is no sign to indicate it is only for the people who live in your house? Granted I don't think she is a terrible person, but I think we are justifying this behavior. If she herself thought it was perfectly reasonable to do she would not have emailed asking the question in the first place.


message 7: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 790 comments I don't think that's a valid comparison. A single family home is an entirely private place whereas in an apartment building many people come and go who you do not know. If the "librarian" did not think about this, she should have.


message 8: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Bramlett | 15 comments I think since it was a private building where she had to buzzed in that it is technically stealing. Those books were probably for the residents who live there not people just coming and going.


message 9: by Jan (new)

Jan | 100 comments I am 100% in favor of ANYONE taking a book from what appears to be a "share shelf," but I would never consider the act completely okay until I'd replaced it with another--or brought back the one I took out to read.


message 10: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
And then there was the time I put a box of books out at the curb in front of my house with a sign, "free, please help yourself." And I saw my neighbor going through the box. Great!, I thought. And so I did it again the next week. And the next. And I felt really great that my neighbor was reading.

Until a few months later, when I ran into neighbor on the street. "Thanks for the books," he said. "I send them down to my daughter in Florida, where she can sell them to a used bookstore to earn extra money."

Uh. Not what I had in mind.

But wait, it gets better.

A few weeks after that, a stranger knocks on my door. I've never seen her before. "Do you have any books?" she asked. "I haven't seen you put out any in awhile, and I need something to read."


message 11: by Linda (last edited Aug 18, 2015 11:33AM) (new)

Linda | 2781 comments Mod
Ann wrote: "And then there was the time I put a box of books out at the curb in front of my house with a sign, "free, please help yourself." And I saw my neighbor going through the box. Great!, I thought. And ..."

Ann, you enabler, you! ;)

That is so funny.


message 12: by Becky (new)

Becky Yamarik | 73 comments So. . . after reading all the comments and listening to the podcast. . . I think that if I had to do it all over again, I would have gone back and asked the patient if I could take the book. She was one of our rare patients that was completely mentally competent (she had emphysema) and could have actually answered my question. Sadly she has since died (our average length of stay on our hospice is 2 weeks, she actually lived about 4 months with us).
Loved Ann's story and found Don's comments about the different ethics fascinating.
What is it about books that makes throwing away a used book so painful?? There's many things that we love, that are used, that we still throw away. . .

By the way, highly recommend the Tin Drum if you're looking for a classic or a book over 500 pages. Shocking in parts, caused a big uproar when written and I can see why. . . there's a scene where a fisherman uses a submerged horses head to catch eels and there's eels swimming out of the mouth/eyes/ears. . .


message 13: by Linda (new)

Linda Sienkiewicz (lindaksienkiewicz) | 4 comments I could never throw a book out either. I'd give it to charity or donate it to my local library. They have a used book sale several times a year and all the money goes into the library.


message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (altalisa) | 2 comments when I'm done with a book, I don't care who takes it, as long as someone does! We have a spot at work for people to leave books they no longer want. I don't care if a co-worker, vendor, client, cleaning or landscape crew take it. I'm just glad it it's no longer in my house adding to the clutter.


message 15: by Tiffani (new)

Tiffani (tiffanipassportbooks) | 17 comments It is interesting to read all the comments and see different points of view. Personally I would consider this slightly over the line onto the stealing side of the street. Yes, the organization who set up the library should have put up a sign but the organization's failure doesn't make it okay to just take stuff. I also object to the idea that it was okay to take the book on the basis that it wasn't a popular bestseller. Who knows what the people in the hospital/care facility are interested in? My grandfather spent the last few months of his life in a care facility and reading was one of the few things he enjoyed doing and he didn't just read current bestsellers. He read big, hulking classics. He read religious texts. He read mysteries and fantasies. So you never know what people are interested in.

In the end, I doubt the organization that runs this little library will be all that upset about the person taking the book. Still it would be courteous to ask before taking something. I would recommend donating a book as has been suggested by others and/or returning the Tin Drum after finishing it.


message 16: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (altalisa) | 2 comments Tiffani wrote: "It is interesting to read all the comments and see different points of view. Personally I would consider this slightly over the line onto the stealing side of the street. Yes, the organization who ..."

I agree, it is interesting to see all the different points of view. It would be a boring world if we all thought the same and like the same things. I absolutely do understand how this could be seen as 'stealing', I just know how I feel about an item when I'm done with it. I want it gone and I don't care who takes it. I figure no sign means it's up for grabs.


message 17: by Megan (new)

Megan | 16 comments I agree with Don and several others above. When Ann read the question on the podcast I just couldn't bring myself to see it as "stealing". It's such a strong word and I'm not sure you can "steal" something that was left for taking. I also agree with Lisa above, when I want to get rid of something, I don't care who takes it as long as its gone. And if it's a book, I want someone to enjoy it. This did make me think about putting up a book share shelf in my building, which I thought would be fun. Then I took it one step further...there are tons of nonresidents in and out of my building (there's 8 floors with about 12-14 apartments per floor) and I realized I would definitely not care if I set it up and some of the visitors took a book. I agree that it's nice to give a book back if you're taking one, but she only took one book, not an entire shelf. I don't feel like she was taking advantage of the residents when taking one book that she actually read (rather than the neighbor trying to sell them in Ann's example. I think a true book lover who put the book there would be happy for anyone to read it!


message 18: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 790 comments People have very strong opinions about "possessions". My boss told me this morning that his wife gets mad at him if he uses "her" toothpaste (and he is the sole wage earner...lol).


message 19: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) Ann wrote: "And then there was the time I put a box of books out at the curb in front of my house with a sign, "free, please help yourself." And I saw my neighbor going through the box. Great!, I thought. And ..."
Your live in a very strange neighbourhood!! :)


message 20: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) I think it also depends on the intention. If it is just a sympathetic way of getting rid of used books that I thinks it matters less who takes them. (though I do think selling them ,and boasting about it, is a little off)
But if a collection is intended to provide reading opportunities for those who don't have easy access to a wide selection of books then the book should be replaced with another or after reading. In such a situation if everyone took the books there would be none left for the people who really needed them.


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