Distinguish between "active" and "passive" borrowing

Math undergrad student
October 13, 2015

Sometimes I search online for a book and notice that all the copies are already checked out. If it is a book I am not sure would be very useful, and especially if I notice the book has been checked out recently, I sometimes decide to simply wait until the book has been returned, or else find a suitable replacement. I do this because I'm not sure whether the current borrower is currently in need of the book. However, it's probably usually the case that the book I want is just sitting on someone's shelf and hasn't been looked at in weeks.

It would be nice if there were a system by which I could tell the library that I am actively reading a book, and so would prefer not to have to return it soon, or if it is sitting passively on my shelf and I wouldn't mind returning it. This information might be useful to someone deciding whether or not it is worth requesting a book.

One way the system could work is that a checked-out book could be deemed "active" automatically for something like two weeks. After the two-week period ends, the borrower could get an email asking whether the book they borrowed is still being actively used. If not, then the book is deemed "passive". At any point in time, if the borrower starts reading the book again, they should be able to make the book "active" again.

This tool might not be strictly necessary, but I think it would make the process of requesting a book less intimidating. There's also a chance that it could make it just a bit easier for books to circulate to the people who need them.


Sivan Hecht on October 13, 2015

I think there is already a system in place which accommodates this. Often times, students working on long-term projects will rent out textbooks for terms at a time and will use them alebit not "actively". But all you have to do is request it from the library and they have it due back in something like 1 - 2 weeks. If that person really needs it back they can request it back and either you or someone else with a copy will have to return it, but that person can also extend when it is due back if they don't need it right away. This is more common for very niche fields, so it might not be that relevant. In any case, I think you can do it all online with mit.worldcat.org which is hopefully not too intimidating.

But I do agree that it should be easier for books to circulate around people who need them. Sometimes I have research projects where I am sharing numerous books with partners and it becomes a pain to have a common place to keep them all together. Maybe there could be like an active/passive 'space' where you can passively store "active" books, and actively collect "passive" ones. Like a cubby, that anyone can have access to.