If so, do you stop because it's the right thing to do, are you governed by the logic of appropriateness, or do you stop because you fear getting caught, the logic of consequences? Or is it a combination?
Scholars James March and Johan Olsen define the former logic as
a perspective that sees human action as driven by rules of appropriate or exemplary behavior, organized into institutions. Rules are followed because they are seen as natural, rightful, expected, and legitimate. Actors seek to fulfill the obligations encapsulated in a role, an identity, a membership in a political community or group, and the ethos, practices and expectations of its institutions. (pdf)complementary.
Here's why I ask about stop sign behavior. Last month our patron counter broke, which meant no more gate counts. Two weeks later, the library security gates broke. We have an older system in which these two functions are part of one structure, which makes replacement an expensive proposition. How expensive? This expensive. For a small library that didn't budget for this, it's a tremendous outlay.
But is it a necessary one? Thanks to the above logics, and the norms they propagate, does a library need a security system? Do enough patrons behave appropriately, and fear the consequences of inappropriate behavior, that a security system is irrelevant? And will the people who steal library materials, or "borrow" them without first checking out, find a way to take what they want from a library regardless of the state of library security?
The library security system is not quite a stop sign. Think of it more as a traffic light, with a red light camera attached. If you run the light, the camera goes off, takes a picture of your license plate, and mails you a ticket. If you take materials out of the library without them being desensitized, a sensor goes off, staff inspects your belongings, and you are perhaps shamed as other people stop to watch this spectacle. A neutered security system, however, is a stop sign. There is no enforcement mechanism without a functioning sensor beyond the norm that stealing is wrong. It operates within the logic of appropriateness. And yet the physical structure of the gate is still there; most patrons may not realize that the gate sensors do not work. The library security system has become a panopticon. It offers the illusion of consequences as a form of domination and control.
The above image is a prison designed by utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, never built. However, its design has influenced a number of modern structures.
Our library contains approximately 214,000 items that circulate in one form or another. The far majority of these are out of date, relics of a time when the school was a women-only college, not a co-ed university. In the 2011-12 fiscal year, July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, 10,613 items circulated. Of these items, fifty-six (56) are labeled lost or missing. For the purposes of this exercise, I code those materials as stolen. Starting on November 1, 2012, I will begin a count of missing and lost items, ending when, and if, I suppose, we get a functioning security system, and I will report the finding in this space.