March 1st, 2014

Rant: The Etiquette of Book Borrowing

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The Etiquette of Book Borrowing

I love discussing books with friends and family, and once upon a time I was happy to lend out novels from my collection to interested parties. But over the years, certain types of book borrowers ruined the experience, and today I’m pretty darn reluctant to let books leave my house. Chances are good that you all have a few of these people in your lives, too.

The Messy Borrower
Messy borrowers often return a book in significantly worse shape than when you gave it to them. I’m not talking about the occasionally dog-eared page or the spine cracks that emerge through many readings. I’ve had books returned with coffee mug rings on the cover – my book is not a coaster! I’ve also received books that are warped and rippled with water damage; my best guess is that someone dropped the book into the bath tub or a puddle. I’ve had loans drawn in by small children and heavily annotated with notes. Please, if you’re using a book while working on your thesis, take notes on a piece of paper or buy your own copy. If you otherwise damage or destroy a book, buy a replacement for the owner, or at the very least ‘fess up instead of pretending the damage was already there.

The Black Hole Borrower
This could also be called the “long term” borrower. These are the people who borrow a book, and the long-term loan eventually becomes permanent. I hate chasing after people about books, because I know everyone reads at different speeds and when life gets busy, reading a novel won’t always be a priority. But last summer I loaned out my copy of A Game of Thrones, and the other day I followed up and asked the borrower if he’d had a chance to check it out yet because my husband wants to read it. He replied that he’d finished the book months ago. This is someone I see on a weekly basis, so he’s had many opportunities to hand the book back, yet he just couldn’t be bothered. It’s quite aggravating.

The Re-Gifting Borrower
Sometimes, you loan a book out and you don’t hear about it for a while. You get worried that your fellow reader is a Black Hole Borrower, but when you inquire you find she’s taken it one step further: she’s a Re-Gifting Borrower. These are the people who will loan your book out to their friends, without telling you or asking if it’s OK. Occasionally, this compounds to outrageous degrees – the Re-Gifter’s friend is a Black Hole, or another Re-Gifter. Most of the time, the book gets lost somewhere in the supply chain.

The Lying Borrower
These are the borrowers who end up banned from my library – and to be honest, our friendship never quite recovers and ultimately withers away. The Lying Borrower returns a book with crayon drawings all over the first chapter and claims that they were already there. Not bloody likely, since I have no children and the borrower has a four year old artist in the house. The Lying Borrower insists that she’ll bring it “next time” for weeks on end, and finally admits that she lost it months ago.

Have I forgotten any borrower types? What are your book loaning horror stories?

Peeking into the in:
2013: Sailor Moon Vol. 9 by Naoko Takeuchi
2012: Vacation: Weddingpalooza
2011: Bookmooch Journal: Cold as Ice
2010: Contest (Not Mine): Stella Matutina’s Moving Giveaway
2009: Contest #6 Winner