Library food fines are fiction

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No caption. Photo by Lorraine Abdulahad.

Daniel Levine ’13 was lounging in an armchair at Bass Library while perusing his linear algebra notes. As his concentration grew weaker and his urge to log onto Facebook grew stronger, he remembered the pack of Fritos buried in his backpack. Glancing around surreptitiously, he casually fished them out and put a chip in his mouth.

Moments later, Levine was startled to see the figure of a Bass security guard looming over him. The guard demanded to see Levine’s ID card and said he would be writing Levine a citation. He then warned Levine that any further offenses would result in a $20 fine, Levine recalled.

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The guard, whose name is William Turcotte, is gradually gaining a reputation among frequenters of Bass Library for prowling the aisles, seeking out violators of the library’s ban on food and drinks. Students said they have been threatened with fines and loss of library privileges when caught — but, in fact, no such consequences exist.

Food and beverages in non-spill-proof containers are banned from most areas of Yale’s libraries, according to official policy. Students who do not comply with these rules are supposed to be asked to dispose of the items or move elsewhere.

But there is no policy of fining students who break food and beverage rules, said Geoffrey Little, library communications coordinator, nor has such a policy been discussed.

“Any confusion as to the consequences of students bringing food and drink into the library should be attributed to miscommunication and misunderstanding,” Little said in an e-mail. “The Library’s policy on food and drink is quite clear, but such instances may point to a need to better articulate the policy and the consequences that follow from repeated non-compliance.”

The Library’s food and drink policy is in place to preserve library materials and to promote a clean, comfortable environment, Little added. The Library may ask a student’s residential college master or dean to talk to a student about library policy if he or she commits multiple infractions, he said.

When asked about students’ claims, Turcotte denied that he had been threatening students with fines.

“I’m going to say that didn’t happen,” Turcotte said with a grin.

Harry Neveski, a security attendant at Bass who works during the day, said some guards — especially those who work the night shift — take additional measures when dealing with students who break the rules, including taking down a student’s name and student ID number.

“I don’t approve of it,” says Neveski. “It’s not security policy.”

Machiste Quintana ’13, for one, said he thinks taking down a student’s ID number is a scare tactic.

Levine’s experience is not isolated. Recently, Bracewell Polo ’13 brought a steak and cheese sub sandwich into the library, and Turcotte told him if he brought food into Bass again, he could lose access to the library.

“I think it’s unnecessary and ridiculous that he’s threatening students with nonexistent fines,” Rocky Bostick ’13 said.

But some students said they think Turcotte is only doing his job.

“It’s his job to enforce the rules, and he’s just trying to make people take the rules seriously,” Lugar Choi ’11 said. “Besides, it’s not like taking down an ID number causes any harm.”

Despite library policies and Turcotte’s practices, most students interviewed said they often bring food into the library to study.

Amanda Sandoval ’11 said she often brings food into Bass and has never been reprimanded. Still, she said she would understand if a security guard asked her to stop.

“When I plan on being in the library for a long time, I usually bring food so I can snack,” Chase Young ’13 said. “It keeps me focused.”

The only designated food area in Bass Library is the Thain Family Café.


  • Robert Schneider

    Security guards patrol the interior of Yale libraries now? Why?

  • Y ’12
  • @#1

    Because selfish and inconsiderate students, such as those mentioned in this article, are taking food and drinks into the library, against the rules! Spills not only foul the environment, they attract rodents and insects that cause enormous damage to the books. If students need to snack, they should go to the designated area at the Thain café. Otherwise, they should grow up!

  • law10

    I guess you haven’t run into the terrifying Mayor McCheese in the stacks. A delicate aroma, a furtive glance,and he lures you into a darkened corner of the library for a few seconds of illicit bliss. Thank god he-man studs like Mr. Turcotte use thier extraordinary powers for good rather than evil. If not for him, the future of many Yale undergrads would be ruined by the likes of McCheese, Chester Cheeto and others of thier ilk. Perhaps he’ll next turn his steely glare and witty charm upon the neer do well gum chewers lurking in the Law School library.

  • super

    Don’t eat in the library. It’s pretty astounding that bottled water and safe coffee mugs are even allowed. Sneaking food in the research libraries of Berlin, Rome, London, Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, etc., etc., simply is not done; you’d get tossed out. And such policies are in place for reasons other than to harsh your vibe.

    While you’re at it, Yale Campers, don’t ever answer your damn mobile phone in the reading rooms again. No, not even to say you’re in the library and can’t talk.

  • Yale10

    I’ve been told by Sterling Memorial Library an officer at the front desk that I could be fined and have my library priveledges revoked for the remainder of my time at Yale if I were to be caught with food in the library.

    (I was told that he didn’t want me to get in trouble; this was when I was stopping to pick up a book at the reserved desk, and I happened to have a completely sealed box of take-out food that I was bringing back to my room.)

  • Local 32 member

    Bass Library security guards = next candidate for budget cuts.

  • Dan

    Why would anyone willfully submit identification to a security guard?

  • wazoo

    Because the university says you have to show your identification to any University official when requested. Unless of course you consider mere security guards far beneath your lofty status. Next time just refuse and show them your a man not to be trifled with.

  • yalie

    What a bunch of library losers. Coffee and drinks should ABSOLUTELY be allowed. It is natural for the human to want to drink, especially during the hours on end that some need to spend studying.

  • Tara Kennedy

    As one of the librarians who is responsible for the preservation of the collections at Yale’s Libraries, I am grateful to the Bass security guards and their diligence. I know that custodial services are also grateful, as they need to clean up all of the food waste and trash left behind when students sneak food into the library.

    The food and drink policy is not there to penalize students: it is there to keep the library clean and keep pests under control. Mice are a huge problem in the library. Ask many staff in Sterling and they can tell you about the mouse feces that they have seen on their desks and in their work areas.

    So it’s more than just about readers being able to eat Fritos with abandon: it’s about *everyone* using and working in the library – they all equally deserve to have a clean and pest-free environment.

  • obvious step

    The Provost should fine the brats who eat food in the library. He’d raise money, and save money on the cleaning costs and damage their cause.

    Guess what — not everyplace is your living room. You can stop feeding your face for a few hours in a library!

  • Yale 08

    I was once hollered at by a shrill librarian for eating a PB&J sandwich in the main hall of Sterling.

    I just stared at her and shoved the whole thing in my mouth.

  • @10

    So if you destroy a book by spilling Coke on it, are you going to pay for it? Or does that come under the heading of “I can do anything I want because I’m entitled.”

    Grow up. Drink water. Take a brief walk and go to the part of the library where you can drink. Most importantly, grow up.

  • Sigh…

    I should be allowed to do whatever I want, whenever I want, regardless of the consequences to others. I’m never going to read most of the books in Sterling anyway. Pack up my stuff and go outside to eat? Inconsistent with my martyrdom as a long-suffering saint forced by a cruel society to attend Yale.

    Entitlement is gross.

  • library user

    It’s distracting to have people rustling snack bags, eating and slurping when I’m trying to read. It’s also kinda annoying when wax from your make-believe seance candles has dripped into the book I want to work from.

    As for the mice, how about getting a library cat?

    The library at Cambridge has a humanely priced cafeteria, unlike at Bass. Maybe if Bass prices were lower, and it had more seating and better climate control, more people would go there. And how about at Kline on Science Hill? At night there is NOTHING up there except vending machines.

  • @ library user

    I second the library cat idea! OMGZ Dewey Readmore Books anyone?

  • Yale ’08

    Ahhh, the many forlorn (but relished) days spent doing intensive research in Bass. I love Bass and have snuck in a furtive meal several times during my studies. Eat and drink, be merry, but if you are so clumsy about it that you get caught in your bacchanalian revelry, I say, you deserve Yale security’s iron hand. If the guard threatens you with fictional citations, then let him go through the ritual. Don’t get all pissed off because he is trying to uphold standards. Just nod politely and be more careful next time.

  • southernalumna

    @Yale 08 10:34p.m. on February 18, 2010

    And you’re proud of that?