I love me a good library, so naturally, that was one of the first things we wanted to check out at the Uni. It was probably a poor first choice for something to check out, since it almost immediately screeched to a halt, with a librarian yelling at us in German at the front desk.
After it became clear that saying the same thing over and over to us in German was not going to make us understand, a student checking out at the desk offered to take us outside and explain, in English.
The problem, she told us, was our bags and jackets. To go into the library, we had to leave our things in one of these (she tapped on the door of one in a row of lockers). Just drop a 2 euro coin into the slot. We thanked her profusely and she hurried off to class. Then we stared at the locker, and at each other.
2 euros just to enter the library? That was ridiculous! We didn’t need to do this! What a stupid system! We’re Americans, damn it! We huffed off and promptly refused to ever enter the library, ever. Except after it was all over, this weird exchange had still piqued my interest.
Why were students, of all people, willing to drop 2 euros every time they wanted to go into the library? Had socialism addled their brains, making them believe that this was a contribution to the greater good? Plus, how do they bring in, like, their booklearning materials? Are they allowed to have any?
After a significant amount of time spent lurking and watching, I finally heard a telltale sound while a girl was opening her locker one day:
I glanced over and saw her retrieve the 2 euro coin, along with the contents of her locker. Bingo. Of *course* you get it back. All of the pieces fell into place.
Another piece that has since fallen into place – at the front desk, you can ask for a laptop bag (“Laptoptasche”), a sturdy, clear bag designed to hold your laptop. Really, you can stick anything into it (that’s allowed in the library). I’m not sure what the reason for this system is, other than they want to prevent ‘non-library’ items from entering the library and prevent books from leaving. I don’t know if this is the system everywhere in Germany – it was never the case when I lived in Spain, and I’ve never seen a system quite like this in the U.S.
With a little more traveling, we started to see this coin system at various museum locker rooms (though it’s usually just a 1 euro coin). And though this is the tiniest of details, it does bring to light the magnitude of changes that would have to happen if the euro were ever, um, discontinued (shall we say): would all of these locker systems need to be redone to fit the new/old Deutschmark or equivalent currency?