Some 600 students at Scottish universities have been unable to graduate because they have not paid library fines.
Older readers may realise that they these unfortunate learners needed to borrow only one book.
The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm, the 1933 children's classic by Norman Hunter, contains an instructive episode. In the chapter The Professor Borrows a Book, the absent-minded genius of the title withdraws The Life and Likings of a Lobster from his local library.
But, unsurprisingly, he mislays it. The enterprising inventor is undaunted and simply cycles to the next town and borrows another copy from another archive. Inevitably, he loses this too, and in time becomes involved in a farcical scramble involving last minute pedal dashes to 14 different libraries (happily they were more plentiful in those days) to avoid being fined.
This, like the actions of the universities who withhold degrees from students, seems a disproportionate response. However the professor's solution is infinitely more fun, and while we will not reveal the resolution of his dilemma, he is a kind of genius, and we commend his charming adventures, written over some 50 years, as exemplary for young and old alike.
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