A story from my past:
I bought a sandwich from the uni refectory. Since the library was opposite, I thought I’d pop in and quickly check the new releases shelf. The shelf was next to the issue desk.
As I walked past the issue desk, just 3 or 4 steps away from the shelf I wanted to look at, I was stopped by a member of staff on the issue desk. She told me I must leave the library with food on my person.
“Ah yes,” I said. “I wasn’t thinking about food. Don’t worry, I’m not in here to eat. I’m just scanning the new release shelf here. I’ll be about 30 seconds.”
“I’m afraid you can’t,” she said. “You’re not allowed food in the library and I can see you’ve got food.”
Silly me, my wrapped sandwich was in a see-through paper bag. Why didn’t I put my sandwich in a rucksack or a large, unidentifiable box like other people? It avoids encounters like this.
I apologised. “Sorry, I’ll know to pop in *before* I get a sandwich next time. I’ll just check the shelf and go. Sorry about that!”
No luck. “If you want to check the shelf with that food, you’ll need to get a key from me and put the food in one of the lockers. You can look at the shelf after that.”
I couldn’t help but be amused at the ridiculous process I’d have to go through just to walk three extra steps and browse a shelf for less than a minute. The lockers were on the other side of the room too. The sandwich would need to travel further around the library in order to stop it travelling around the library!
I put my sandwich on the issue desk and smiled at the librarian. “Tell you what,” I suggested, “Why don’t I leave my food here for a moment and look at the books? Back in a mo!”
I didn’t wait for a reply. I bounced the extra few steps to the new releases shelf and was, as expected, less than a minute checking out the titles on offer. At this point, I bounced right back to the issue desk.
“Thanks! I’m done now. I’ll take the food and leave. Promise!”
To my surprise, the librarian had moved the offending sandwich out of sight to another part of the staff space. Even better, she called over to another member of staff.
She waved at the other person. “Could you, er, bring me this gentleman’s…you know? His…”
Not wanting to say it aloud, she mouthed the word “Food” and discretely pointed to where she’d hidden my sandwich.
Once handed back to me, the librarian whispered “There you go,” as if this highly irregular situation could have got her in to trouble more than it could me!
I know rules are in place for a reason, even though the issue of having food in libraries is controversial. But I hadn’t really considered how much fuss my sandwich would cause. Until I’d been stopped by the librarian, I didn’t even twig that I’d brought any food in. My grub spent a good three or four times as long in the library because of that.
Does your library let you take in food and drink? Do you smuggle stuff in? Is any kind of food ‘fair game’?