Florida English professor had 728 books checked out to boost personal collection of over 3,000.
Richard Burt owns more than 3,000 books. Filling his shelves at home and spilling over into his office at the University of Florida, he routinely increases that number by checking hundreds out from the university libraries.
Burt loves books so much that it gets him in trouble.
Until October, Burt had 728 books checked out from UF. He said he was given permission by Library West employee Jana Ronan to exceed the university’s usual faculty limit of 350. But this semester, Burt was made to return all 378 extra or pay a fine of 25 cents per book per day.
“The weird thing for me is not that a professor would want to check out over 350 books but that a library, of all places, would stop him,” Burt said. “It just seems unjust.”
Burt, 65, who has a doctorate in Shakespeare’s comedies from the University of California at Berkeley, is a tenured English professor and researcher at UF. He moved to Gainesville from California in 2003 for the job.
Currently, Burt said, he’s working on two research projects and teaching two classes. But having to return 378 books meant he had to stop writing two other books of his own and he says he can’t fully create his new class on Edgar Allen Poe’s manuscripts, affectionately titled “Poe’s Crypts.”
Patrick Reakes, senior associate dean of scholarly resources and services at UF libraries, said Burt is the only faculty member to ever have a problem with the book limit.
“He’s just an outlier,” Reakes said. “That number seems to work for everybody else. In this case, we just needed to rein it back in.”
Reakes said UF periodically compares its book limits to those of other state universities to ensure fair access.
At Florida State University, faculty are capped around 500 books, said Abby Wingate, a media and circulation supervisor for FSU.
At the University of South Florida, faculty are limited to just 200, according to its webpage.
UF sits exactly in between at 350.
Burt said he hopes to get permission to check out more library books again soon.
“All I want to do is learn,” he said. “I’m just some old guy who loves books.”
This story originally published to gainesville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.