A book was returned in the book drop this morning. This is what it looks like.
This is amazing. There is no way the patron checked it out like this. Sure, it has had over a hundred checkouts. Sure, it is over 10 years old. But there is no way it had this water damage when we checked it in.
Books aren’t supposed to be wavy.
Pages aren’t supposed to be falling out.
Now sure, we are human and we make mistakes. We miss things sometimes. But then it is on the patron to bring it to our attention while in the library and not check it out.
Returning it in the book drop, like we wouldn’t notice it, is really squirrelly. So of course I billed the patron. It is only $7.99, plus a processing fee. She could easily buy a replacement copy and bring it in and not have to pay our fee. We actually like that better. That way we get a copy of the book.
But that would require bringing in the book, which she didn’t do to start off with. Maybe she was busy. Maybe someone else returned it for her. But there are some things you should do in person. Admitting that you destroyed a book is one of them.
I can’t tell you the number of people who say “What do you mean I have to pay for this? You can still read it!” Or “I can’t believe I have to buy a new copy of this book – it is used!”
All books in the library are used. If they are checked out even once they are “used”. But if the patron hadn’t damaged the book, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Books should be returned in the same condition that they were checked out. This seems logical. But sadly, not everybody shares this opinion.
Books come back sopping wet. Books come back dry, but with wavy pages from water damage. Books come back with pages that were ironed as an attempt to press out the wavy pages that were created from water damage. Here’s some tips. Don’t read library books in the tub. Put books in a plastic bag if you are bringing them back on a rainy day. Better yet, don’t return them on a rainy day and just pay the late fee. It will be cheaper than being billed for it.
Water damage isn’t the only damage that occurs to library books. Books frequently come back chewed up by pets. Very common are the “dog training” books that come back chewed up. Somehow I don’t think the book did the trick. Sometimes people deny that their pets chewed up the books. The best reply was that the person said he didn’t even have a dog, and accused us of taking it home and letting one of our dogs chew it. Now, that is insane. Why would we do that? It is as if he thinks we want people to yell at us. Trust me, that is the farthest thing from our minds.
Yes, people yell at the staff in the library. It isn’t the “safe” place you think it is. Anybody can come in, and they do.
Books come back with coffee stains, syrup smears, and jam spots. Yes, we bill for that. Books come back with sentences underlined, pages dog-eared, and “bad” words blacked out. Yes, we bill for that too.
Strangest damage? A whole slew of books came back with the dust covers torn off and the books covered in a fine grain dirt. It turned out that the patron’s younger son had taken the books to the ballpark while they watched the older son play baseball. He’d taken off the dust jackets “to protect the books”. The dust jackets are on the books to do exactly that. Taking them off not only exposes the book to damage, it is also a pain to put the cover back on.
The moral of the story? You can do whatever you want to your own books. But library books aren’t yours. You get to borrow them. You don’t have the right to damage them in any way. They belong to everybody in the county. So be nice to library books, out of thankfulness that you get to borrow them.