We’ve all been there: striding out of Van Pelt Library after a successful homework session, or maybe trudging under the mound of books strapped to your back. One inconvenience — albeit a small one — is the bane of the conscientious student and the eternal procrastinator alike: bag checks.
You approach the front doors of Van Pelt. You slightly unzip your bag. The security guard takes a glance inside the bag. You walk through the exit gate. You awkwardly try to close your bag and hold anything else you’re carrying as you keep walking so you don’t cause a pile-up.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all complied with this odd rule. We’ve all been annoyed as we had to stop and readjust our belongings. And we all collectively wonder: What is the point?
Is it that Penn doesn’t trust students to check out books properly? Is it that Penn fears people will actually steal books?
It’s true that students might forget about books they put in their bags while at the library. But it’s also true that bag checks are usually performed so half-heartedly that you could make it out of Van Pelt with several books in tow, as long as they are somewhat out of sight.
“I have literally walked out of Van Pelt with library books in my bag … a DVD once too … I’d checked them all out at the front desk, but I forgot to take them out of my bag as I left,” said one student, who agreed to speak to The Daily Pennsylvanian on the condition of anonymity. “No alarms or buzzers went off either.”
Since there seem to be no repercussions for leaving the library without having your borrowed books checked by the guards, why should we waste time on bag checks in the first place?
Yes, bag checks typically only take a few seconds. But that is not including the time spent before and after the bag check as you reposition your bag, other items and, sometimes, outfit. And if you decide to leave the library during Van Pelt’s peak hours, you’ll likely find yourself waiting in a line before your bag gets inspected.
Library-goers used to be able to avoid the bag check nuisance by going to Fisher Fine Arts Library, which does not force students to open their bags as they exit. Rodent problems in Fisher, however, have put an end to its status as a bag check haven. This semester, security guards in Fisher have been checking bags at the entrance to ensure that students do not bring food into the mouse-infested library.
Libraries at other universities do not require students to open their bags upon exit. At Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, for example, this is unheard of. Schools such as these realize that bag checks are annoying, unnecessary and pointless. Penn should follow their example, and either end the useless bag checking at our libraries or take the responsibility seriously — because right now, there is no point.
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