Yale has always been a battle for me. This spring’s crisis is finishing my work even as the library tries to ruin me. My privileges are suspended and my dear father wants to know if he has to mortgage our home to pay my $16,000 in library fines. As I leave Yale, I face the prospect another year’s worth of tuition.
How did I get to this wretched place? In October, a night before they were due, I renewed my books, all 100 of them, online. Or so I thought — because days later, I received a late notice. I alerted the library of their mistake. Yet I continued to receive late notices: so I continued to dispute. It took months to receive a response more significant than a form letter and longer than a sentence.
Then I was told I had stolen the books. Then my parents received a bill for $10,000 (it has since risen). My forms became pleas; bewilderment became desperation. I had to return the books or pay for them, they said. But I had a senior essay to write and I needed those books to do it. So I kept the books and am waiting for the library to come to the negotiating table.
I do not doubt I will triumph over a broken system, but I am pained that in my final months at Yale, I have been isolated from the library. Because of the system’s extraordinary assets, I have had the opportunity to do limitless research. And yet during my last days in the College, I am a stranger once again in that marvelous Ode to Learning. By disenfranchising me, the library has taken away something I can never replace: that majestic time, dwelling in Yale’s House of Books, beholding its beauty and inquiring in its ways.
I am now scrambling to finish my work, while simultaneously fighting my fines and fearing a collection agency. This library saga, my final battle with the bureaucracy (I hope), is an apt analogy for my time here.
The customer service I received underscores that Yale is not here for me, but I for it. My attitude — not taking things too seriously — recognizes this reality as something other than normal existence. My regret to see it go away appreciates that there will be a lot to miss. Yale is a good burden to endure, maybe the best.
Davi Bernstein is a senior in Ezra Stiles College.