CityCouncil_BC

BEN CLASSON/Herald photo

The City Council passed an amendment Tuesday requiring all dealers of used textbooks in Madison to keep records of individuals who sell books to them.

The amendment, originally sponsored by former City Council President Austin King, District 8, was sponsored Tuesday by newly elected Ald. Eli Judge, District 8, and new City Council President Mike Verveer, District 4, among others.

The amendment intends to combat the prevalence of stolen textbooks being resold at campus bookstores.

"I think it will serve as a strong deterrent to textbook theft on campus," Judge said.

Verveer agreed, stressing the positive impact on investigations that the cooperation of booksellers could have, citing specifically the recent case of textbook theft on which he worked as assistant district attorney.

"I think that the law will certainly assist investigators attempting to catch these criminals," Verveer said.

The amendment requires any individual selling a used textbook to a dealer to present valid photo identification, such as a driver's license or a student ID from the University of Wisconsin, Madison Area Technical College or Edgewood College.

However, a detailed physical description and social security number would be required if the identification is not a valid driver's license.

The amendment's debate lasted well into the night as opposition came not only from campus booksellers The Underground Textbook Exchange and A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore, but also from the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.

Stacy Harbaugh, community advocate for the ACLU of Wisconsin, spoke at the meeting, raising questions of personal privacy of the individuals selling books, whose personal information would be left in the hands of booksellers.

Sandi Torkildson, owner of A Room of One's Own, argued that records of books resold by students could be used in federal investigations that violate individuals' rights — a line of reasoning she compared to the argument some librarians make against keeping records of what books people check out from libraries.

These arguments caused debate about an amendment requiring investigators to obtain a subpoena or present other "legal demands" before viewing booksellers' records. It was eventually defeated on the grounds of impracticality.

"It would be bordering on outrageous to require a subpoena for each case — it's just tremendous trouble to the cops," Verveer said.

Verveer also argued that recording the sale of used textbooks is not in the same vein as tracking a person's library records.

"I am very sympathetic to the civil liberties concerns mentioned in tonight's debate," Verveer said. "However, I think it's a stretch to compare the sale of these textbooks to the borrowing of books from libraries."

Opposition to the used textbook amendment also came from Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele, District 20, who argued that her constituents saw protecting textbooks as a student's own responsibility.

"The council has tried to regulate too many things," Pham-Remmele said. "I have talked to many faculty members, too, and taking care of textbooks has always been the responsibility of the students."

Debate also ensued Tuesday night surrounding a liquor license that was eventually granted to the new Club One-Eleven, to be located at 111 W. Main St. A liquor license was also approved for the new Majestic Theatre without debate.

The council also passed an ordinance that permanently revokes the requirement that sidewalk café wait staff carry all food and beverages to patrons dining outdoors.