For most of my school life, books were on loan for the year and then returned back to the school. At the beginning of the school year, we were given the books we needed and inscribed our names onto a bookplate which had been pasted into the book when it was originally purchased by the school. I was always very careful with the books I got from the school — it was not my property to do with as I wanted.

I have had similar life experiences like this every time I have ever borrowed a book from the library. I get the book and carefully read it, making sure not to damage it in any way or expose it to just about any element that could significantly damage it. It’s just not my book and it is not fair to the next person who borrows the book if I damage the book or deface it in any way.

A couple of nights ago I was on a train coming home, and seated across from me was a woman who was holding a purse on her lap. Once the tickets had been collected, she took a rather large book out of her purse and opened it. I immediately noticed that the first thing she did was to unfold the page at the corner — she had dog eared the page to mark her place.

Her book, her problem, I thought. Only it wasn’t her book. I was about to just go back to what I was doing when I noticed that the book was stamped with “ROCKVILLE CENTRE PUBLIC LIBRARY.”

This was not a child sitting across from me, but rather a grown woman. She certainly should have known better.  She was dealing with property that was on loan.  She should not have dealt with it in such an abrasive manner. Perhaps she never got such an education? There are countless ways to abuse a book and I have seen most of them.

Please heed this advice, and heed it well — if you borrow a book from the library, treat it well! Treat it like you would a child. Well, unless you are anything like the worst woman in the world — in which case, treat it like most people would treat their children.


  1. Bravo, Gordon! I love and appreciate your warning.

    Books are tools, and I believe, when you own a book, you should modify it as you wish to best serve you — but when you borrow a library book — you are not using a tool that belongs to you. That book belongs to everyone. When you break the paper with a dog ear, that page is ruined forever. The integrity of the fibers can never be restored.

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