Nano made his way down the Aurora Library isles to the Science Fiction section. He was much amused by what mankind saw or expected to see in their future and their imaginations. Some of it was accurate, but mostly it was fantasy, which was the next section of books and somehow appropriate. Regardless, he found it entertaining to read and often spent time here looking through the books, sampling them. It didn’t take him long to read a book. By human standards, almost no time at all. He’d seen many of the homeless at the library reading, but with his ability to read pages at a glance, he’d never checked a book out. Perhaps that was presumptive of him he speculated. Those that read seemed to really enjoy the process as much as the sum of the story. He decided to check out a book for the first time and picking one took it to the circulation desk.
“Hello, may I help you”, said the plump lady with glasses behind the checkout desk.
“Yes, you may”, Nano said. “I’d like to check this book out. How much will that cost?”
“Do you have a library card?” the librarian said, after a short pause.
“No, I do not have a library card.”
“Okay, we’ll need to get you one then. Here’s a form. Fill it out, sign it and when you’re done, bring it back up.” She handed him a paper form and he frowned at it, then went back to his chair where Lawyer Joe was sitting. Nano called him Lawyer because he was always in court for some odd reason. In a minute Nano had the form done and returned to the lady at the desk.
“Oh, that was fast” she said. “Let’s see it.” She took the form and started typing the data on it into a computer network terminal. Nano said nothing about the primitive nature of this computer system. It didn’t matter anyway as the tech at this point in time was in constant flux and would soon be obsolete in favor of the next best temporary tech coming along.
“Is this your current address?”, the lady said after a few moments of entering the data.
“Yes, it is”.
“I’m sorry Mr. Nano, but you can’t have a library card”. She said this while not looking the least bit sorry or even concerned. In fact, she appeared rather annoyed.
“Why?”, ask Nano.
“We don’t consider those at the homeless shelter residents of Aurora. Only permanent residents or those with regular mailing addresses can have library cards.”
“Why?” Nano understood that by the use of ‘permanent’ the librarian meant ‘not transient’, that is, the wandering homeless.
“Why?”, she repeated. “Well, because you’re homeless and we want our books back and in good condition. You know we lose a good number of books to the homeless or get them back in poor shape. It’s better for the library not to have to pay to replace those books than to lend them out to homeless people.”
“Isn’t that considered unfair and discriminatory? Aren’t your homeless with the same human rights other citizens in the community have?”
“No Mr. Nano, the homeless aren’t entitled to the same rights as other patrons of the library. Now if you can show me a home address, I’d be happy to let you have a library card.” She was definitely annoyed now, what with being ask to speak about the policy of refusing services to a subset of the population living in the community.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand the logic of your policy. Do not people ‘normal’ people lose books or bring the back with damage? Since they are much more numerous than the homeless population, aren’t the total number of books lost or damaged by the good citizens more than those of the homeless? Also, I thought in America where it’s illegal to discriminate on age, race, religion, and other things, surely one would not separate out the poorest and neediest, those least able to defend themselves for an exclusion policy that is by definition biased and unfair, not to mention unethical. Perhaps you can fill in the missing rational for me, or is it really about money to replace books, or is it you just don’t like to serve the homeless?”
At this point, the librarian was redder than a beet. “Mr. Nano, I’ll have to ask you to leave the library. We don’t need trouble here and your insulting comments are not appreciated. Now leave, your banned for the next six months. Leave or I’ll be forced to call the security guard.”
Nano contemplated the options for a moment, shrugged and said, “I’ll pick up my things and leave. I’d like to leave you with a single thought though.”
“What’s that Mr. Nano”, she said, barely able to stand the delay in his leaving, but his cool demeanor had her off-balance.
“Well, it’s this. Those who withhold knowledge are lacking wisdom. A society lives and dies on how strongly it values knowledge and your library is refusing to serve knowledge to those most in need of it as it does for other patrons. Have a nice day.” That last part he’d heard a few times lately and thought it was appropriate to wishing her to have a more pleasant day. He turned as she stuttered, walked over to his things, picked them up and with Lawyer Joe, walked back out of the library.
“I could have warned you pal”, said Lawyer Joe, “but it’s best if you experienced Aurora hospitality for yourself.”